Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnson will make their World Rally Car debut on Arctic Rally Finland at the end of February. The pairing will drive a 2C Competition prepared Hyundai i20 WRC on the snow rally.
“I’m counting down the minutes until I get to sit in this fantastic car for the first time,” said Solberg. “This really is a dream to be making my debut in a World Rally Car with the reigning manufacturers’ champions.”
Scandanavian Solberg was brought up on snowy stages and finished second-fastest R5 on last month’s Arctic Lapland Rally. The Finnish Rally Championship’s season-opener was based out of the same city, Rovaniemi, as the WRC’s second round.
Solberg and Johnston used that event to become accustomed to the Hyundai i20 R5 ahead of their WRC 2 campaign. After only one World Rally in Hyundai’s R5 they’re already taking the chance to taste WRC machinery on Solberg’s favored surface.
“I have driven quite a lot on the snow,” admitted Solberg, “and I know this type of condition quite well, but the car is completely new for me.
“The only target for me in Lapland is to learn and take the experience. I want to come out of every stage understanding the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC more than when I started it.”
The 19-year-old’s WRC 2 debut on Rally Monte-Carlo was going brilliantly before a slippery right-hander on the final stage had them stranded on a bank. It was a bitter pill to swallow but as today’s announcement shows it hasn’t halted Solberg’s high ambitions.
It will be hard for the Swedish-Irish partnership to avoid comparing times to Hyundai’s main drivers Ott Tanak, Thierry Neuville, and Craig Breen. The combination of Arctic being a new rally to the championship and Solberg’s prolific pace could spring a few surprises along the way.
However, Hyundai’s team principal, Andrea Adamo, was keen to take any pressure off his junior crew.
“We are keen to see his performance level, of course, but there is no pressure on his shoulders in his debut WRC event.
“He has to enjoy the rally and take all the experience possible.
“It will be his first time at the top level of world rallying but it is more of a test than anything else; he has to acclimatise and get acquainted with the high-speed nature of the car in these wintry conditions.
“We hope to see him at the arrival, the end of the Power Stage, with lots of enjoyment and happiness – that’s the main target.”
WRC’s brand-new snow rally will take place over 10 stages between 26-28 February.
Photos by Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool