New England Forest Rally ’19

New England Forest Rally

The United States is the home of people with high levels of gasoline in their blood. So motorsport has a really respectable place in the pantheon of various sports. True, that the rally itself has not conquered hearts as strongly as other steel horse races. There are two major championships in North America, the ARA (American Rally Association) and the FIA North American Rally Cup. The first consists of 9 stages in the US and the second – as many as 17 events throughout North America. The crews there are mostly local, with stars like Ken Block or Travis Pastrana was among them. But European rally grandmasters like Mark Higgins and Barry McKenna also take part in the promised land. Junior WRC Champion Patrick Sandel also drove there. And now everyone’s eyes turned to the young Norwegian, Petter Solberg’s son – Oliver.

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The young Norwegian was turning the wheel since he was a child. There was a fun gravel road between the Solberg family and Oliver’s good friend’s house, where the little Solberg was paying the visit to his friend, leaving the road in the dust. Professional participation in the rally began in Latvia in 2017, as the country’s regulations allow drivers to take part in the rally while being too young to have a driving license. So in the special stages behind the steering wheel of the Peugeot 208 R2 was Oliver and in road section – Co-driver Veronica Gulbaek Engan. In 2017 and 2018, Oliver was second in Latvian Junior class, defeated only by a Latvian star – Martins Sesks. Norwegian also has driven several rallies in Estonia. And in 2019 – The World Rally Champion’s kid in the VW Polo R5 is already winning one after another. He is currently leading the Latvian and Estonian championships with a win in a Rally Estonia RC2 class being most famous. Also, Oliver’s career has further shifted to North America. The Solberg family’s good relationship with the Subaru manufacturer led to a place on the Vermont SportsCar team (which is Subaru’s official representative) at the ARA Championship, where the young Norwegian teammate – multiple-time United States champion David Higgins. They both drive the latest specification Subaru Impreza. And Subaru doesn’t have rivals for a long time. The young Solberg immediately began to climb on the heels of the leaders and victory was already achieved in the second round at the Dirtfish Olympus rally in the northwestern United States. And in New England Forest Rally, Oliver finished only fifth, despite winning 75 percent of the stages. A punctured tire and excessive tire wear cost the Norwegian a lot of time. Following that result, Oliver ranks third in the ARA Championship. With three rounds remaining and a slight deficit from David Higgins and Piotr Fetela, it is very realistic that the United States may have the youngest champion in history.

But here’s just rallying matters on Oliver’s account. The youngster has tried many other motorsport disciplines. Ant the Rally Cros is the place where he is as good as in the classical rally. In 2018, Oliver became a RallyX Nordic Champion and recently there was a “Born 2 Drive” movie released about Solberg’s RallyCross journey. But despite his tremendous success in the latter discipline, it looks like Oliver is linking his future with the classic rally and trying to achieve what his father achieved in 2003 – to become a World Rally Champion.

Meanwhile, Oliver’s teammate and current championship leader David Higgins had no problem with the New England Forest Rally. Over 168 kilometers of gravel roads that pass through logging sites, the British built up more than a minute and a half ahead of Irish Barry McKenna with the Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo. The third remained American Ramana Lagermann with former Tommi Makinen Subaru Impreza WRC ’01.

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