Petter and Oliver Solberg overcome 'butterflies' in ROC win

Oliver Solberg (NOR) of Team Norway crosses the line to win during the ROC Nations Cup 2023 at Pite Havsbad, Sweden on 28 January 2023.
© Jakke Rontynen/Race of Champions

Petter and Oliver Solberg emerged victorious in yesterday's snowy Race of Champions Nations Cup, clinching a second consecutive victory for Team Norway at Sweden’s Pite Havsbad.

They beat Team All Stars' Thierry Neuville and Felipe Drugovich by three heats to one in a thrilling final, having already seen off the home Team Sweden in the semi-finals.

“Everyone loves the Race Of Champions," said Petter. "But I was nervous today: the conditions change every run so it was easy to make a mistake. You get butterflies in your stomach and you still have to go out and do what you do.

"As for Oliver, I knew he’s fast but coming up against the Swedish drivers you really need a perfect run. That’s what he did, and the same in the final," he noted.

"Oliver had a fantastic day’s racing. Not just for winning, but his speed. He saved me today, just as he did last year."


“I didn’t know I was going that quickly today," Oliver admitted. "You get very nervous, but I had consistent lap times. When that happens you don’t want to overdo it, you just try and drive as you always do.

“It’s fantastic to win the ROC Nations Cup again, particularly to win the final heat against Thierry Neuville, my WRC team-mate last year. I don’t tend to beat him very much so I’m very happy to beat him now!

"Felipe did a fantastic job too. We were together in the car for practice yesterday and we had a lot of fun together with the big jumps. Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought him in the car, because he was a bit too fast!"

“I was not expecting to make it to the final," admitted Formula 2 champion Drugovich, who will be Aston Martin F1's reserve driver in 2023. "The learning curve today was even steeper than on the other days of practice.

"Ice driving is really cool practice for control. Obviously the technique is not close to what we do on the track but it teaches you a lot so I hope to keep learning.

"I’m feeling better every time I get on the track, so hopefully I can keep this learning curve and get closer to the other guys!”

"This is a great event. My target was to go as fast as I could in every single heat," said Neuville. "Rally drivers are used to a track that evolves this quickly but it’s tougher on the circuit guys.

"Felipe really impressed me with his driving and learning throughout the day," he added. "Felipe’s improvement made the difference and that’s why we made it all the way to the final."

On his way to the final, Neuville claimed a notable scalp in the form of four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel in the semi-finals.

“I won a lot of races today and beating Sebastian Vettel was obviously something special," he agreed. "Today was close to perfect for me until I messed it up against Oliver right at the end.

"Obviously I don’t like losing but Oliver was driving very well and he always sends it very hard in such a competition so I knew it would be really tight. In the end he beat me by a big margin so well done to him.”

Surprisingly, Team Finland's line-up of Mika Hakkinen and Valtteri Bottas suffered an early exit following a shock defeat by Team eROC’s simracers Lucas Blakeley and Jarno Opmeer.

But they are back in action this afternoon in the individual competition, won last year by French rally champion Sébastien Loeb in a final showdown with Vettel in Sweden.

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