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Johnston and Solberg seal European debut win

THERE can be no doubting just how formidable a team Fintona navigator Aaron Johnston and Norwegian driver Oliver Solberg have become.

Since joining forces at the start of this season, they have won the first two rounds of the Baltic Championship in the snow and ice of Latvia onboard their Volkswagen Motorsport Polo GTi R5; have crossed the Atlantic to finish second overall in the first round of the American Championship onboard a Subaru Motorsport USA Subaru Impreza (Oliver won the second round alongside veteran French co-driver Denis Giraudet after Aaron was unable to travel); and at the weekend they secured their biggest success to date, winning Rally Liepaja, which was a round of the FIA European Rally Championship.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It couldn’t have gone any better!,” Aaron beamed following their latest success.

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“If we had been top five I’d have been delighted because it was our first time in the R5 competitively on gravel.

“Overall it was a fantastic weekend an it couldn’t really have gone much better.”

Seventeen-year-old Solberg, a son of 2003 World champion, Petter, is proving to be no flash in the pan behind the wheel and with Johnston alongside they are catching the eye across the globe.

Their victory at the weekend made Oliver as the youngest winner of an FIA European Rally Championship event ever and he and his Tyrone colleague did it in style by leading the high-speed gravel event from start to finish in their Pirelli-equipped Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, posting the fastest time on 10 of the 13 stages in the process!

Heading reigning ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk by 9.7 seconds at the end of the first leg, Solberg simply increased his advantage on the final day and finished up 22.7 seconds clear of the Russian, who faces a punishment for speeding between stages.

“Setting quickest time in qualifying set us up for the whole weekend, it enabled us to pick our position on the road so we decided to go last.

“On the first stage we decided to go at our own pace and to get to the end of it and discover we were six seconds quicker than anyone else was just surreal!

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“To win 10 out of 13 is phenomenal because we weren’t concerned about anyone else, we were there to gain experience for the future and keep learning, so to be tucked in to a battle with Alexey Lukyanuk was a bit mad.

“But we’re still very young and we still have a lot to learn. The pace is there to start with, so it’s just building on that, keep focused, keep working because yes, we dominated this weekend, but it’s not going to be like that all the time.”

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