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WRC Rally Kenya

WRC Safari: Chassis damage ends Solberg's event early

Oliver Solberg’s first top flight World Rally Championship outing on gravel has ended prematurely as chassis damage has forced the Hyundai driver out of the event after four stages.

Oliver Solberg, Aaron Johnston, Hyundai 2C Competition Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

The son of 2003 WRC champion Petter was handed a second WRC opportunity having been drafted into Hyundai’s 2C Competition squad at the Kenya event in place of Pierre-Louis Loubet. The drive arrived after an impressive seventh on debut at February’s Arctic Rally Finland.

However, his Safari outing proved to be a brief one for the 19-year-old after sustaining severe damage to his i20 from hitting a bank in stage two, the first of the morning's stages.

The impact registered at 19G and left the car crabbing at the end of the stage, prompting Solberg and co-driver Aaron Johnston to make repairs in-between stages.

After dragging the car through the next two stages, causing more damage to the rear of the car, the pair have been forced to retire from the entire event.

“Today we learnt that it's not just the lions that bite at the Safari Rally it's the stages too,” Solberg posted on social media.

“It was a very, very difficult start to the day on SS2, and we got some damage which we tried to repair on the road section after.

“We tried our best but sadly we couldn't really fix it - we did manage to slowly finish SS3 and SS4 and kept trying to fix it until it was impossible, but the damage to the chassis is too much and unfortunately our Safari Rally experience is over too soon.”

Oliver Solberg, Hyundai Motorsport

Oliver Solberg, Hyundai Motorsport

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Solberg is among a number of drivers to hit trouble on the first loop of traditional stages. Only six of the 11 WRC entries managed to clear the trio of tests on Kenya’s tough gravel roads.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans crashed out on stage three after hitting a rock barely a kilometre from the finish, while Hyundai’s Dani Sordo spun into a ditch at high speed on the same piece of road. It is hoped the pair will return to action tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations.

WRC privateer Lorenzo Bertelli also suffered a water leak and failed to make the start of the fourth stage.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville leads the rally by 5.1s from Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera while Ott Tanak is 26.2s adrift in third. A second pass through the morning stages await the crews this afternoon.

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