Subaru Motorsports USA took the top two podium positions at this weekend’s DirtFish Olympus Rally, with Swedish rally prodigy Oliver Solberg securing his first American rally victory in a blue and gold Subaru WRX STI. Solberg was fast and consistent throughout the weekend, despite having never seen the Olympus stage roads before and working with veteran co-driver Denis Giraudet for the first time. Defending ARA champion David Higgins pushed hard on Sunday but was unable to catch his teammate, finishing with a strong second-place finish.
It was an emotional moment for the whole Solberg family, with Oliver’s legendary father Petter – the 2003 World Rally Champion with Subaru – and mother Pernilla looking on.
“Winning my first event for Subaru is an amazing feeling,” said Oliver Solberg. “This is my first time at the Olympus Rally and I’m working with a new co-driver, plus I was first on the road all weekend which meant the surface was very loose. But the Saturday stages gave us a lot of confidence, and Denis and I pushed as hard as we could on the last stage today to hold on for the win.”
“When we got to the end of the last stage, it was like a dream had come true for me. My mom was first to the car and then dad… you know we have all worked hard for this and I have a lot to thank those guys for. Us Solbergs, we’re an emotional family and this was an incredible, incredible moment for us all.”
Oliver Solberg started his life at top speed, literally! Born 3 months early in 2001, he was attending WRC events with Petter and Pernilla [Petter’s wife] by 2003, and was driving regularly before turning 6 years old.
What followed was several years racing in crosskarts – very fast, very light buggies with close racing on circuits including the legendary Holjes. The first race win didn’t take long, winning in Flisa at 8 years of age. By 2012 he had won the Norwegian Championship, and then after a step up to a higher class he claimed consecutive championship wins in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He needed a new challenge.
That new challenge was rallying – a sport synonymous with the Solberg name. At only 15 years old, the Latvian Rally Championship was one of the few places he could compete in 2017, and with such great roads and organisation it was the perfect place to learn without too much pressure. With 2 wins and several top performances in his Peugeot 208 R2, it certainly was a good start to life on the rally stages.
And in 2018, Oliver went one step better, becoming the 2018 RallyX Nordic Champion with 3 wins, sealing the title in the final race of the season at Tierp Arena. He also become the youngest driver ever to compete in a World Rallycross Supercar.
Olivier says “I don’t think anybody could begin to understand what a big deal this is for me. I was two years old when my father was World Rally Champion and remember so well how proud I was of dad wearing blue and yellow and driving a car of the same colour. I even still today have the Subaru bed sheets. I don’t know of a team anywhere in world motorsport that has created the same sort of success that Subaru Motorsports USA has managed – this is such an exciting day for me, and an incredible honour to drive for them this year.”
The poignancy of the moment isn’t lost on Petter. Subaru’s 2003 World Rally Champion said: “I think everybody knows Subaru has always and will always be close to my heart. For almost 10 years, Subaru was my life and we made an incredible story together.”
For Higgins and Drew, a second consecutive podium finish earns vital championship points – but without a rally win through two events, the pair is in an unfamiliar position.
“The brake issue on Saturday was a bit of frustration for us,” Higgins said. “We had good speed on that stage and losing so much time meant we had a very hard job ahead of us on Sunday trying to drive from behind. The stage wins show we’ve got the speed to get back to winning form – just waiting on some luck. For now we’ll focus on the championship fight and make sure we’re putting together a solid weekend every time we’re in the car.”
Higgins and Drew will team up with Travis Pastrana and co-driver Robbie Durant at May’s Oregon Trail Rally, while Solberg is scheduled to return in June at Idaho Rally International.