Early start in the Solberg family
To see and feel the level of the world’s best athletes of my sport was crucial to how I further staked out my own course towards the top. I fussed a lot to make it happen, and I have never regretted it for one second – although I hate to ride along with others in a car.
For more than a year, my now 13 year old son has nagged me to have the chance to co-drive for me in my rally car. In the local winter rally Finnskogsvalsen in Sweden, I was able to fulfil Oliver’s desire. Two days of father and son time in our historic Ford Escort MkII was a wonderful experience for both of us!
I was only six years old when I drove a car for the first time on my own. It was not legal of course, but at the end of the 1970s and in the middle of nowhere back home in Spydeberg, they were different times.
Oliver started with karting at an early age and has been driving cars for as long as he can remember. In 2014 he won three titles and nine individual victories in his crosskart. His dream is to become a rally and rallycross driver – and to beat me! One of the secrets to manage that is to see, feel and experience how I’m driving.
Being a co-driver in rally is one of the toughest jobs I can imagine. You need a full overview, manage timing, find rhythm and you must be confident and determined as well as being careful, precise and very concentrated. The co-driver tells me about how the road looks ahead, determines speed, track selection and which focus I should have on every metre of a stage; the co-driver is the driver’s extended vision.
Only the most skilled co-driver is able to lead the best driver into victories at the top level. I have worked with some of the best ones in the world; Phil Mills, Cato Menkerud and Chris Patterson are among them.Oliver had never before read notes in the car. Just four months ago he was old enough to get permission to sit in the rally in accordance with Swedish rules.
I was very excited about how he would solve the role. Result wise it was unimportant, but we were supposed to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the ride together, and then it’s nice to be satisfied with ourselves as well.
A short instruction of mom Pernilla before the start was everything Oliver wanted to prepare. From the crosskart driving he has learned how to focus and concentrate; that skill was important here.
We flew off the start-line on the first stage, and Oliver went aggressively to work with the notes.Shortly after he asked abruptly: “How am I doing Dad? Is it ok?”
Not exactly by the book in full drift on the white winter roads and with the next turn just a few meters away.
“Yes son – it’s awesome… Just read the notes!” I replied.
We finished the stage with a ok time. Oliver was very pleased and proud – and I was equally proud. We had a very nice time together in the car, and I’m quite sure it was a great learning weekend for Oliver as well. The co-operation was getting better for each stage and towards the end of the 130 km long rally on snow and ice, we gained a lot of time against the two leaders. We were quickest in our class at the last stage, and we were only 8 seconds from second place overall.
Our aim for the top three in class and top ten overall in Finnskogsvalsen was reached!
Spending time with your children is the best there is. In an otherwise busy life for both parties it is a memorable experience that provides an extra dimension in the relationship between parents and children. Last summer Oliver and I took a road trip together in Sweden with our motorhome and we both enjoyed the country road and each other’s company to the fullest. We are often out riding ATV, snow mobiles and ice driving, and we spend time fishing and several other out-door activities together.
While I will try to defend my World title in rallycross this year, Oliver will also attempt to defend three titles in crosskarts; the Northern European, Swedish and Norwegian championships.
We will have to enjoy the separate competitions while it lasts. In about 5-6 years we may just as well compete for the same trophies…