For almost a decade, the names Solberg and Subaru were woven into a world championship-winning tapestry. Brothers in arms, the two were inseparable in the pursuit of excellence, success, glory.
Petter Solberg’s 13 rally wins helped elevate the little-known Subaru brand from relative obscurity to a legend in world rallying. As the first Norwegian to win the World Rally Championship (WRC) Drivers' World Title in 2003, it also marked the last time that anyone would win the WRC drivers’ title in a factory backed Subaru car, with Subaru’s World Rally Team pulling out of WRC in 2008.
And now, they’re back: Solberg and Subaru together again.
Except this time, it’s 17-year-old son Oliver Solberg, son of Petter, taking on the 2019 American Rally Association (ARA) championship season for Subaru Motorsports USA.
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 cross karts - 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, 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. To have Oliver driving for that manufacturer is fantastic for me. And, for sure, there will be some emotion for Pernilla and me when we see him climbing into that car for the first time at a rally.”
Solberg and British co-driver Aaron Johnston kick-off their campaign 15-16 March at Missouri’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. They will compete for the 2019 ARA title in a total of six U.S. events alongside defending 2018 ARA champions and seven-time U.S. rally title-winners David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew. Action sports icon and five-time national rally champion Travis Pastrana will also return to the Vermont Sportscar-prepared Open 4WD class WRX STI for select events alongside co-driver Robbie Durant.
Higgins said, “It’s very cool to have a Solberg driving a Subaru again. A generation of rally fans grew up watching Petter doing incredible things in a blue and yellow car with gold wheels – to see that Solberg name on the side of one of these cars will be mega.”
“We did the Wales Rally GB in a Subaru liveried the same as Colin McRae’s 1995 title-winning car in 2015 and the response to that was huge. People have such fondness and affection for these colours; when I heard we were going back to the blue and yellow livery for this year I was delighted. I don’t know Oliver all that well, I haven’t competed against him before, but he’s a Solberg and I think we all know what that means! It’s fantastic to have him on the team with us this season.”
Boasting a star-studded driver line-up, Subaru Motorsports USA is looking to grow the trophy cabinet having captured 13 of the last 14 U.S. national rally titles and in 2019 will return to the blue, yellow and gold made famous by the Subaru World Rally Team – and worn by Oliver’s famous father.