Norwegian rally driver Oscar Solberg endured a tough weekend at the fourth round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC), taking fifth Junior in the Ypres Rally in Belgium (23/24 June).
As the only MH Motorsport BRC Junior category entrant in the rally, all eyes were on Solberg for the unforgiving event which was the first foray onto a sealed surface this season. Co-driven by Patrik Barth, Solberg now lies just ten points way from a podium position in the championship.
The Hampshire-based firm took four cars to the event across the English Channel but the round one winner would be the only pilot of the Ford Fiesta 1.0litre EcoBoost R2T in the team.
Irishman Josh McErlean was hoping to join the team on the event but was to withdraw from the event due to a Belgian regulation and Solberg would need to have a trouble free event if he was to mix with some of the quickest drivers in Europe on the rally.
Despite being in his inaugural year of the British Championship, Solberg drew on his experience of the Drive DMACK Trophy which ran alongside the World Rally Championship last year to form a base for the notorious Belgian roads. Around 260 kilometres lay ahead with Friday’s stages providing an added layer of darkness to further toughen the events already tricky special tests.
Solberg would start well and despite his lack of experience on a sealed surface, set a string of impressive times which would see him sit a few seconds outside the top three at the halfway point of the opening leg.
An unfortunate brace of stage cancellations would make any headway on his position tough going, confounded by a puncture on the penultimate test. Solberg would enter the overnight halt in sixth place in the BRC Junior rankings.
With the opening stages on Saturday morning claiming big names on the entry list, Solberg had plans to stay out of trouble and nett a decent points haul for his championship aspirations. Sadly this would prove harder than ever with a 12th stage trip into a ditch causing a driveshaft breakage.
Losing chunks of time, he crawled through the remainings stages to service and sadly it wouldn't improve for the youngster later in the day.
With the infamous Belgian ditches claiming Solberg not just once, but twice over the remaining tests, the MH Motorsport team would have to work flat out to keep Solberg in the event.
Pulling out all the stops for the Norwegian, the team repaired the Fiesta to enable him to cross the finish ramp in Ypres on Saturday night, albeit further down the order than he would have liked.
“This was such a hard rally I'm very glad we made it to the end,” said Solberg.
“The roads here are so tricky and you can be off line just a little bit and you are in a field. One of the toughest rallies I have ever done for sure and OK the result is not the best but I'm glad to get points for the championship”.
Solberg will now look to next months Nicky Grist Stages where he will hope to regain lost ground on the Junior BRC leaders.