Four-wheel drive? Forced induction? Petter and Pernilla Solberg didn’t need either to deliver another inch-perfect win at Rally Sweden Historic, which finished in Torsby on Saturday afternoon.
Driving their Pirelli-shod Viking Motorsport-built Ford Escort RS1800, the Solbergs humbled some of the finest Group 4, Group B and Group A rally cars around on the roads either side of the Swedish-Norwegian border.
Despite battling a cold throughout the event, Petter won each and every stage to come home more than a minute ahead of fellow Rally Sweden winner Mats Jonsson (Mazda 323).
“I love to drive these stages in this car,” said Petter. “It was Pernilla’s birthday today, so we had to make a good celebration – this was the perfect present for her.
“It’s tough to beat the four-wheel drive cars with this car, so it’s always nice to win like this. For me, it’s been a tough one though. I woke yesterday morning and I had so much fever, I was sweating like hell, coughing and sneezing and I honestly thought to not start. It’s not so bad when you get into the stage, once the adrenalin comes, the focus is there and you can drive.”
The route for Rally Sweden Historic was altered with two stages cancelled on both days as the organisers feared the warming conditions and melting ice base could damage the roads for the main World Rally Championship field. That decision meant the Historic entries missed out on the iconic Vargåsen stage – a test which contains ‘Colin’s Crest’, one of the season’s most famous jumps, named after Scotland’s 1995 World Rally Champion and Petter’s former team-mate and friend Colin McRae.
“This rally is a round of the world championship,” said Petter, “and the world championship is the priority. Obviously, we would like to have driven all the stages and, in Vargåsen, we had lots of our family and friends and sponsors there to watch us, so we have to say sorry for not making it through there. But I understand the organiser’s decision completely.”
The Ford Escort RS1800 ran without fault and was quick enough for Petter to hit a top speed of 200kph through snowy Swedish roads.
“I worked on the car last year,” said Petter. “I took out the axle and worked on it, the same on the springs and I took some new dampers. The car was better and faster for this year.”
Birthday girl Pernilla was delighted with a fourth win in five starts at this event.
Pernilla said: “Everything worked like we wanted it to. I was a little bit worried for Petter when he was coughing a lot on the first morning, but winning stages was the perfect medicine for him.
“I want to say a very big thank you to Glen Olsson [Rally Sweden CEO] and his team – they work so hard for this event and I’m just really pleased they let us run at all given the mild weather and the concern for the conditions.
“And it’s another big thank you to the marshals who helped run this event – we couldn’t do what we do if they didn’t do what they did.”
And finally a word from last week’s Solberg winner – Sarma Rally victor Oliver.
“I’m so proud of my parents,” said the 17-year-old. “I told them after I won [in Sarma] they had to do the same in Sweden. And they did it in the best way possible with fastest time on every stage.”
Two wins and a Solberg returning to Subaru (Oliver was announced as a Subaru Motorsports USA driver on Thursday) – it’s been quite a week for Petter, Pernilla and Oliver.