Oliver Solberg will make his gravel WRC debut in a Hyundai i20 WRC later this month on the World Rally Championship’s return to Kenya for the Safari Rally.
Having impressed on his WRC debut on snow during February’s Arctic Rally Finland with a seventh place, the Swedish youngster will now face an entire different challenge from the frozen flowing roads of the Arctic Circle.
The Safari Rally was renowned for being the roughest event on the calendar and soaring temperatures mean Solberg will have to look after himself, as well as the car during the event.
His WRC gravel debut should have come on Rally Sardinia earlier this month, but after his father, Petter (Solberg, 2003 World Champion), tested positive for coronavirus the pair had to quarantine in a Portuguese hotel for ten days.
This meant his entry had to be withdrawn, but Hyundai have instead moved his drive to Kenya, something for which Solberg is delighted about.
“I know I talk about my dreams a lot, but this one really is a dream. I can’t believe it. When Andrea [Hyundai Motorsport team principal Adamo] and Alain [team manager Penasse] first talked about me maybe going out to do the recce on Safari, I was so excited.
“Now I’m going to compete at Safari Rally Kenya. The WRC is full of incredible events in amazing places, but this is such an honour and a privilege to be doing this one.
“The WRC has been waiting for 19 years since the last Safari and to be competing with a factory World Rally Car when the sport goes back to Africa is so special. I’m always excited to be getting in a car to drive, but this is on another level now.”
22 years ago his Petter made his WRC gravel debut on the exact same event in a Ford Focus WRC, after a pre event injury to Thomas Radstrom meant he could no longer compete. Solberg Snr finished fifth on his debut.
Despite this, Hyundai Motorsport Team Boss Andrea Adamo said that there would be no pressure on Oliver, with the only request to enjoy his gravel debut.
“I am really happy that Oliver can finally make his gravel debut with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on gravel at Safari Rally Kenya,” said Adamo.
“We have seen at the Arctic Rally Finland that he can be very fast in the WRC car and I think he already showed what he can do, but most of all we want him to enjoy the Safari and there won’t be any pressure on him.
“I am sure we will see again some nice speed from Oliver and he will have the possibility to learn more about the car.
“I am looking forward to see him in action, we all know he is a very fast driver, who is both passionate and dedicated – I really like his approach to things and I am sure he will be able to impress again.”