Mon 14 Mar 2022

Cash-strapped Solans reflects on Fafe victory masterclass

Nil Solans left it late to win the opening round of the 2022 FIA European Rally Championship despite leading Rally Serras de Fafe - Felgueiras - Cabreira e Boticas from the second stage.

Solans feared his lack of funding would prevent him from taking up his drive in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 run by Spanish team ARVidal Racing. But he managed to secure vital backing at the last moment to contest the mainly gravel event, going on to land a highly impressive victory alongside co-driver Marc Martí.

“It was difficult because we didn’t make a test and it’s been three years since I used this car, so we came here knowing in the last moment we are doing the rally without trying the car,” Solans explained. 

“It was really crazy, we started with the set-up from Rally Spain in 2019 just to understand what to do with the car, but at the end we are very happy to finish like this, to take all the risks that we took during the rally because it was very tricky conditions.”

Solans elected to run first on the road on Saturday’s opening leg, a decision that he reckons was decisive in his victory bid.

“In rally you are always learning new things,” he said. “Last year when I was analysing times from other drivers when they in front, it was really clear we needed to start first. It was tricky sometimes when there is a lot of water and you have no lines. But if you push really hard you can get a proper time.”

Georg Linnamäe proved a strong early threat to Solans, narrowing his advantage to 13.5sec after seven stages, only to drop back on Saturday afternoon with a misting windscreen. But there were no such problems for Solans, who reached the overnight halt in Fafe with a margin of 1min 44.5sec.

“I was really satisfied [on Saturday evening] because of the risk you take during the day is amazing, especially in the evening when there was a lot of water and a lot of aquaplaning,” Solans said. “It was really demanding on the precision, on driving. Today I was destroyed, I was quite tired in my head because of the high concentration on the previous day.”

With an advantage of 49.5sec starting the ERC’s inaugural Power Stage, 29-year-old Solans could have been forgiven for taking things easy on the event-closing run. However, the thought never entered his head.

“The victory is never in your hands and I was learning this situation from Junior WRC. I knew I had to focus, take care in a few places but continue with the pace.”

Solans holds a four-point lead over Armindo Araújo after the Fafe season opener. But he now needs to secure sponsorship to contest the Azores Rallye from 25-27 March in order to continue his title challenge.

“We want to go to the Azores, we have the entry done, we have a good car and good team,” he said. “But at the moment we don’t have the budget and it’s in two weeks. I have no money to pay, I’m not rich so I need to find support or I will stay at home and watch on TV.”

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