› Son of former FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson win WRC2 category at second round of the 2023 season
› Driving another Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 of team Toksport WRT to third position, Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen also climb onto the WRC2 podium
› Defending WRC2 Champions Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) lose early WRC2 lead after encounter with a snow bank
› Four of the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 finish inside top 10 of WRC2 with their crews winning 14 of the 18 stages
Umeå, 12 February 2023 – On only its second FIA World Rally Championship event, two Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 made it onto the WRC2 podium. At Rally Sweden, Oliver Solberg from Sweden and British co-driver Elliott Edmondson scored the maiden WRC2 victory for the new Rally2 class car from Mladá Boleslav. Finnish duo Sami Pajari/Eni Mälkönen, also of team Toksport WRT, finished third of the category. Reigning WRC2 Champions Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen fell victim to one of the high snow banks lining the stages close to the polar circle and had to settle for seventh position.
Convincing performance from Oliver Solberg in Sweden. The 21 years old son of former FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson won WRC2 with a margin of 42.3 seconds from Ole Christian Veiby/Torstein Eriksen. Sharing a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 run by team Toksport WRT, Solberg and Edmondson scored the fastest time of the WRC2 field on eight of the rally’s 18 stages. „It's fantastic, what a great feeling! It's been an amazing weekend for both of us – no mistakes and really consistent,“ Solberg beamed at the finish after 302 competitive kilometres. The Swedish-British duo was already fastest of the Rally2 class during the season opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, but had not registered to score WRC2 points on that occasion.
In stark contrast, WRC2 Champions Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen experienced an unfortunate start into their title defending campaign. The mixed-crew from Finland, also competing in one of team Toksport WRT’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, went into the category lead after stage 2. But during the very next test a seemingly familiar corner caught Lindholm out. “I was confident from last year, that this place was flat. But it wasn't. The car got sucked into a snowbank. We had to stop and clear the front of the car from snow,“ he explained the time loss of nearly two minutes. Keeping their heads down, the Finns fought their way back up the standings and eventually reached the finish in WRC2 position seven.
That mishap left 2021 FIA Junior World Rally Champion Sami Pajari (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) as the main opponent to Oliver Solberg. After the first leg, only 13 seconds separated both Toksport WRT team mates. During stage 10, Pajari had to pay tribute to the high speeds, which thanks to the heavily studded tires sometimes exceeded 180 kph. „I lost the rear on a big rut at 5th gear speed. We spun, but luckily, we managed to continue,“, the 21 years old Finn reported. Making up the time loss of 40 seconds by scoring four fastest WRC2 times, Pajari and co-driver Enni Mälkönen ended up in WRC2 third. „We had a few chances for podium in the past. Finally we managed it and the feeling is really nice,“ Pajari said.
In another of the numerous encounters with snow banks, Jari Huttunen and co-driver Antti Linnaketo were not that lucky. The two Finns reached the midday service on Saturday a remarkable third in WRC2. Soon after, the team Printsport run Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo stopped in deep snow. Despite the heroic efforts of spectators, more than three minutes went by, before Huttunen and Linnaketo were on their way again.
Marco Bulacia from Bolivia and Spanish co-driver Diego Vallejo came home fifth and brought the fourth Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 into the top 10 of WRC2. WRC Masters Cup, the category reserved for drivers over 50 years of age, also was won by a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew: Michał Sołowow and co-driver Maciej Baran from Poland of team Orsák Rally Sport.
After snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures of Sweden, dust, heat and elevations of more than 2,000 metres await the teams during the coming round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Guanajuato Rally México (16-19 March 2023) is next on the calendar.
Rally Sweden, 9-12 February 2023, Result WRC2
|1||Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (SWE/GBR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||2:33:42.6 hours|
|2||Ole Christian Veiby/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR), VW Polo GTI Rally2||+42.3 seconds|
|3||Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (FIN/FIN), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+1:15.1 minutes|
|4||Georg Linnamäe/James Morgan (EST/GBR), Hyundai i20N Rally2||+2:21.1 minutes|
|5||Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo (BOL/ESP), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+2:41.5 minutes|
|6||Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20N Rally2||+2:48.0 minutes|
|7||Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN/FIN), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+3:01.5 minutes|
|8||Lauri Joona/Tuukka Shemeikka (FIN/FIN), Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo||+3:10.6 minutes|
Number of the rally: 6
Six Škoda Motorsport customer crews finished inside the final top 10 of WRC2. While victory, 3rd, 5th and 7th place went to the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, the predecessor model Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo took positions eight and ten.