Eighteen years and four days ago Petter Solberg was busy setting fastest times at Rally of New Zealand. On the other side of the world – a little earlier than planned – his son Oliver was being born.
Next week, for the first time, the pair will start a round of the FIA World Rally Championship as team-mates. It will be an emotional moment.
Having become the first driver in the history of motorsport to win FIA World Championships in different disciplines (the 2003 World Rally Championship and 2014 and 2015 World Rallycross Championships) Petter has decided to bring his professional career to a close.
Is there a better time or place to do it than competing against Oliver in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on one of the world’s most famous rallies? A rally Petter ruled for four straight years to become then the most successful driver in Rally GB history (admittedly, Sebastien Ogier ruined that record with his fifth win last year…).
“No,” said Petter. “It’s the perfect time. The perfect place.”
It’s already been a big year for Oliver. He’s taken on America and won. He’s taken on the European Rally Championship and won. He’s taken on Latvia, Estonia, the Baltics and… won, won, won. In the process, he’s become the youngest driver ever to win a round of the European Rally Championship and he stole the show at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed with a drive up the hill to cast even the mighty power, glory and glamour of Formula 1 into the shade.
All that success; the boy’s a machine. A winning machine.
Apart from… well, come on Oliver you tell us. What happened in Torsby last week?
“I took my driving test. The driving part was fine. But the questions in the theory section, they were so tricky. I didn’t like them. I studied really hard the night before. Seriously, I spent the night of my 18th birthday in my bedroom remembering braking distances and the colour of road signs. That test is so hard. Really, not so nice at all.”
“I got one question wrong. Honestly, I was destroyed. My whole world fell apart. That was on Tuesday, I did the driving on Wednesday and passed that and was then allowed to re-take the theory. And… I PASSED!
“In 24 hours I went from being absolutely on the floor thinking my dream was over to being right on the top of the world a day later. I have done a lot of driving this year and won a few things, but when that pressure came it was massive. That [theory] test was such big pressure. When I sat down to do it for the second time, I was shaking. But that’s history now. I did it.
“And now my family can enjoy this special, special rally. I can’t wait!”
A few more words from Petter?
“What can I say? I can’t wait either!”