Thu 06 Jul 2023

Solberg charges to ERC Qualifying Stage best in Sweden

Oliver Solberg got his bid for home success in the FIA European Rally Championship off to the best possible start by going quickest on the BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia Qualifying Stage this afternoon (Thursday).

In wet and slippery conditions, Solberg charged to the top of the order in a time of 2min 10.445sec through the rain-hit 4.43 kilometres of Bäck-Hult.

He headed fellow ERC returnee Frank Tore Larsen with Finnish champion Mikko Heikkilä third followed by Hayden Paddon, Josh McErlean and Mārtiṇš Sesks.

Swede Solberg’s performance means he has earned the right to select his road position for Friday’s opening leg first when the start order selection ceremony takes place in Karlstad later today.

“It was very tricky, slippery like hell, it was crazy,” said 21-year-old Solberg, who is driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on Pirelli tyres. “Now it’s stopped raining it’s even more muddy than water so it’s even more slippery sometimes. With the harder tyre it’s not the best in the muddy conditions.”

Norwegian Larsen, also armed with a Polo GTI R5 (above), took 2min 10.718sec to complete the Qualifying Stage to emerge as an outstanding contender for a top result on this weekend.

Michelin-equipped Mikko Heikkilä (below) capitalised on a strong test and slightly less rain than some of his rivals with earlier starting positions to go third quickest in a time of 2min 11.156sec aboard his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo run by The Racing Factory.

Hayden Paddon, the ERC points leader after four rounds, was fourth quickest in his BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 N Rally2, the New Zealander posting a personal best time of 2min 10.781sec. Josh McErlean continued his strong run of form by going fifth fastest for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy.

Winner of the last two ERC events, Mārtiṇš Sesks (below) lost precious time with a misting windscreen in his Team MRF Tyres-entered Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Behind seventh-placed Nikolay Gryazin, Mathieu Franceschi was eighth quickest with Simone Campedelli delayed by a broken windscreen wiper in ninth as Andrea Mabellini completed the top 10.

Saudi Arabian driver Rakan Al-Rashed did nott take part in qualifying following his roll in Free Practice earlier today.

BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia begins for real with the 8.09-kilometre first stage, Ölme, from 09:19 local time on Friday.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM