THE Baltics have proved to be a very happy hunting ground for Fintona navigator Aaron Johnston and his driver, Oliver Solberg who produced a stunning performance to finish as the top R5 crew and second overall in Estonia at Lõuna-Eesti Ralli on Saturday.
The result mean the young duo now hold the Baltic Rally and Latvian Rally Championshp titles and have the Estonian crown in their sights.
At the weekend they stamped their authority on their class, which they remain unbeaten in this season following a fifth win in a row, by finishing a massive three minutes ahead of their nearest rivals and only 3.9 seconds behind overall winner, Georg Gross in a WRC machine that boasts an extra 100bhp.
Behind the wheel of their R5 Volkswagen Polo, 17-year-old Oliver and 24-year-old Aaron produced an outstanding effort during Friday night’s fog-enveloped night stages to lead the Boru-based event after day one.
“We did two stages at night in the snow at the start of the year, but apart from that Oliver hasn’t really done much in the dark,” Aaron explained.
“It was the worst fog I’ve ever seen, so the notes were critical, even more so than any other time, but a big thing too was that there were only one minute gaps, so the dust was hanging and there was fog and the darkness meant the stages were very difficult.
“To be fastest was fantastic, it went very well, but the notes were critical on that stage.”
Although Gross overhauled the pair’s 2.1 second overnight lead to win overall by 3.9 seconds, Johnston was delighted by Oliver’s performance and their result.
“We’re happy enough,” he admitted. “The stages were very, very fast and the difference in the top speeds between the cars [Gross’s WRC and Solberg’s r5] is drastic – it’s like 30kmper hour, so when you’re on the limiter it makes a big difference!
“We’re happy and we won the R5 class by over three minutes and we beat Mikko Hirvonen, the WRC driver from a few years ago – we were about three seconds a kilometre faster than him. It was good!”
Aaron and Oliver’s next outing will be in the World Rally Championship during October’s Wales Rally GB, but there is one big precedence for their entry to be realised – Oliver has to pass his driving test just three days beforehand!
Because Solberg is only 17 and hasn’t got a road driving licence at present, he needs to pass his driving test before he can compete in the UK or Ireland, so no pressure then!