This year’s Rally Finland didn’t turn out to be the fastest-ever WRC rally, as I predicted last Friday. It would actually wrap as the fourth-fastest event in FIA World Rally Championship history. Hyundai’s Estonian driver Ott Tänak won in Finland after completing 186.98 stage miles in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 4.6 seconds, averaging 77.87 miles per hour. Tänak beat Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä by a close margin of only 6.8 seconds. However, one of Tänak’s teammates didn’t even make past Friday’s first corner.
That teammate, was Oliver Solberg, the 20-year-old son of 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg. Solberg had driven less than a quarter-mile before he crashed out of Rally Finland’s second stage. He was sliding through the first corner when his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 drifted wide and clipped a rock, which then pitched his car into a roll. When the Hyundai came to a rest, Solberg left out a guttural scream in frustration as he unbuckled his harness to climb out of the destroyed rally car. The young driver and his co-driver Elliott Edmondson were both unharmed in the violent crash.
In a TV interview, Solberg explains what happened, “Midway through [the left-hander], it just snapped. I knew then I could never save it. And, I was hoping to maybe then clip the trees or something, but there was a rock that flipped me around. I spun into the trees and unfortunately rolled it.” The team couldn’t save the car either. After an inspection, the FIA deemed that Hyundai’s roll cage was too badly damaged to continue the rally.
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While Solberg wasn’t able to finish the race, at least Tänak’s victory will become a turning point for the Hyundai World Rally Team. Last weekend’s win was the Korean manufacturer’s first-ever Rally Finland victory and second WRC win in this season dominated by Toyota and Kalle Rovanperä. Solberg has retired out of three rallies this season and only finished in a points-paying position twice. Hyundai’s struggles with the new technical regulations haven’t helped him or Tänak competitively either.