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Royal Rally of Scandinavia: Solberg dominates

Oliver Solberg on Skoda dominates third ERC race after winning all eight special stages on saturday. Paddon looses second place during the Power Stage and Heikkila finishes second on Toyota. Five different manufacturers represented in swedish final top five.

Good job Oliver!

If there was balance on the first day, Saturday at the Royal Rally Of Scandinavia was a different story. The battle between Oliver Solberg and Hayden Paddon, fought to the last seconds, concluded with the first stage. On the second day of the race, the Swedish driver changed pace, winning all eight special stages behind the wheel of his Pirelli-shod Skoda Fabia RS. Solberg dominated, finishing the race 38 seconds ahead of Mikko Heikkila’s Toyota, equipped with Michelin tires. This marks Solberg’s second consecutive victory after his 2023 home race. Oliver’s clear and consistent improvement, fueled by his experience in WRC2, will likely provide him with further opportunities to return full-time to the WRC with an official team.

Strong performance for Heikkila

Hayden Paddon, who won the opening special stage and kept Solberg on his toes throughout Friday, finished third with Hyundai. However, he lost the second position right on the final special stage, favoring Heikkila.

In fourth place was Larsen’s Volkswagen Polo from Norway, followed by fellow countryman Mads Ostberg in a Citroen. The top five cars represent all manufacturers competing in the FIA ERC, which is becoming increasingly interesting and exciting due to fiercely contested races and fast, spectacular drivers. The championship is in good health and is also beloved by the audience, who gather along the Swedish special stages in Varmland, typically frequented by the WRC during the winter on icy terrain.

Watching the Rally2 cars tackle the famous “Colin’s Crest” jump on gravel ground was both unusual and highly spectacular.

In the ERC Junior classification, Swedish driver Johansson triumphed in the Opel Corsa Rally4, followed by compatriot Carlberg in another Opel Corsa, and Estonian driver Sei in a Peugeot 208.

Oliver Solberg:It is an amazing feeling. A lot of pressure going into the weekend, you want to win again after last year. Yesterday was a terrible feeling but today was good control, good speed and a relief.”

Mikko Heikkila:It feels really nice to be honest, after a very difficult period of rally for me it feels like win. Sorry for Franceschi. It’s a very tough event, I don’t blame myself at all that we couldn’t match the speed of Solberg and Paddon, they are really professional drivers. Big thank you to the team, the setup was perfect and everything went really well.

Hayden Paddon: Given away points this year, we’re giving away points.

Frank Tore Larsen: “I think we got the place we deserved, we haven’t been able to follow Heikkilä and Franceschi but I have to say thank you to my team, my sponsors and codriver and see you in few weeks in Estonia.”

Mads Ostberg: “It’s a lot of good things about the weekend, we were fighting hard all the way through. We have to improve if we want to win, on this level you have to be flawless. Everyone has done their best and we have tried all the weekend. It’s a good weekend and I have a new pressure washer so I’m happy.”

FRIDAY: HARD FIGHT BETWEEN SOLBERG AND PADDON

It’s an all-out battle that is taking place at the Royal Rally of Scandinavia, the third race of the FIA ERC, which runs on the fast Swedish gravel special stages of Varmland, near Karlstad. The Scandinavian roads in their summer version, as we are not used to seeing them, are offering a lot of spectacle to the many fans present at the roadside and are providing us with an exciting challenge.

Hayden Paddon

The pace has remained very high throughout the day, and all drivers have declared that they have driven consistently as if in a qualifying stage. After the first nine special stages, Oliver Solberg leads the standings with his Skoda Fabia RS; throughout the day, the Swede has battled with Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai, the winner of yesterday’s opening show stage. Solberg took the lead on special stage 3 and has not relinquished it since. Only 3.3 seconds separate the two drivers who use Pirelli tires, and in third place, Finnish driver Heikkila is not far behind with his Michelin-tired Toyota; he is 12.7 seconds behind.

Mikko Heikkila

Despite being in first place, Solberg is not satisfied with his day, complaining about a lack of grip and reporting many stones on the track. Fourth position for French driver Franceschi on Skoda, followed by Latvian Sesks on Toyota. However, the fight within the top ten remains very open, and all crews are close together; in the second and last leg, everything is still completely open. The rain that started during special stage 7 shuffled things up, especially because it did not hit those first drivers passing through it. It was Solberg who suffered from this as he started nineteenth, but he was able to limit damage and maintain leadership.

The ERC Junior ranking is dominated by Swedish drivers, who hold the top three positions: Patrick Hallberg leads with the Peugeot 208 Rally4, followed by Johansson and Carlberg in the Opel Corsas. Fourth place goes to the Italian Pesavento in the Peugeot 208, and fifth place is held by the Estonian Sei-Karl in the Peugeot 208.

Patrik Hallberg

Oliver Solberg: The times are so close anyway, every gap is important. It was so loose and so many rocks, it is not easy. The feeling today wasn’t okay, I can’t say I’m impressed with our day but hopefully we can have a bit of a push tomorrow.”

Martin Sesks: “I can sleep two more minutes tomorrow? I saw Mabellini say the same! We start the day third, down to fifth, but that is racing. We learn from the mistakes today and keep going.”

Hayden Paddon:As Heikkilä would say, every stage is like a qualifying stage. It is crazy to think we’re fighting for tenths of seconds on every stage. We tried to push on this one but every time we tried we lost the rear of the car. Tomorrow is more suited to us so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Mikko Eikkila: “This is all a qualifying stage, I was not expecting it like this! This stage was really, really nice, we were not fast but I enjoyed it.”

THURSDAY: PADDON WINS SUPER SPECIAL STAGE

The Royal Rally Scandinavia began with an exciting start, featuring Oliver Solberg’s best time in Friday afternoon’s qualifying stage. Petter’s son put his Skoda Fabia RS ahead of everyone, followed by another Swede, Reiersen, and Martins Sesks’ Toyota.

The first special stage then kicked off the race, and Hayden Paddon set the fastest time in his Hyundai, beating Mads Ostberg’s Citroen by 0.3 seconds and Martins Sesks’ MRF-tired Toyota by 1 second. Interestingly, the top three positions are occupied by drivers using Pirelli, Michelin, and MRF tires, highlighting the ERC championship’s diversity in tire suppliers.

Romanian driver Tempestini secured a good fourth time in his Skoda, followed by Armstrong’s Ford Fiesta. Petter Solberg faced a challenging start, despite posting a decent tenth time, 2.2 seconds behind Paddon. He encountered problems with his VW Polo, including a minor fire. In the ERC Junior standings, where all crews use Hankook tires, Swedish driver Hallberg leads, with a 1.8-second advantage over Max McRae and 2.8 seconds over Estonian driver Sei-Karl. All three are behind the wheel of a Peugeot 208 Rally4.

On Friday, June 14th, the rally features eight special stages, divided into two rounds separated by mid-day service park. The same program continues with eight special stages on Saturday, totaling 191.05 kilometers of timed racing.