For Oliver Solberg, competing in the 2021 WRC Safari Rally (June 24-27) will be a dream come true.
The 19-year-old wasn’t born when his father, Petter Solberg, debuted in the 1999 Safari Rally in a Ford Focus WRC – aged only 24 and one of the youngest in the manufacturers’ team line-up then – finishing a credible fifth.
Naturally, Oliver grew up surrounded by racing machines and inspirational talks about rallying from dad but the Safari always elicited excitement and mystery.
Oliver was born on September 23 2001, 10 months after his father’s 2002 attempt.
In 2019 Oliver, his dad, and Phineas Kimathi, F2 1999 Safari champ reunited in Monte Carlo, and the Kenyan requested their presence in 2020 Safari. They consented.
It was part of the Safari Rally’s CEO shuttle diplomacy, always selling the highly storied event.
Now Solberg is very happy to re-live his father’s tales, looking forward to making the journey to Kenya where the Safari Rally makes a return to the world circuit after – just like his age – 19 years out in the cold.
“It is one of my dream races to do,” Oliver told a Facebook channel.
“My father has a lot of memories and stories and I have seen a lot of adventures that are there. I think it will be an amazing experience so for sure my dream is to go to the Safari Rally.”
Oliver, one of the fastest rising WRC drivers, is expected to drive in the WRC2 in a Hyundai R5.
“He (my father) says it is one of the best places he has been,” he said. “I have also heard some crazy stories but we can’t take them and I think hopefully I can go there and I can get the same experience he got 20 years ago.”
Senior Solberg, the 2003 world champion, returned to Kenya in 2000 with Subaru World Rally Team and registered similar results of the previous year.
The 2000 Safari was held in open roads unlike the 2021 edition scheduled on closed roads.
Nonetheless, Oliver thinks the Safari has not been diluted.
“It will be very different now unlike in the past but still it is a great opportunity as my dad tells me of stages, fans, people everywhere, it is indeed incredible,” he said
Oliver and Kalle Rovenpera, 20, of Finland are listed as the youngest drivers seamlessly fitting into their fathers’ big shoes. Kalle is son of Harri Rovenpera, second in 2000 driving a Peugeot 206 WRC behind Tommi Makinen in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO.
Both are on the verge of breaking a world record of the youngest WRC champions.
“In the closest future now, it is going to be a big fight between Kalle and I. But we will see. It will be a very long way,” he said.
“If you try to come into the WRC and give Kalle a challenge, I will for sure fight,” he said.
“There also are many more young drivers coming up so, for sure, there’ll be a lot of new drivers in the WRC in the future giving everybody a huge fight.”
“The goal, first of all, is hopefully I can be the champion in WRC 2 and in the future is a proper WRC driver with the manufacturers and try to take on the world champions.”