Solberg was leading the second tier WRC2 class by 35.4s when he performed doughnuts at the end of the Lousada super special on Saturday night, held on a bespoke Rallycross circuit in front of thousands of spectators.
The Swede’s exhibition driving breached regulations that were introduced after Sebastien Ogier performed doughnuts prior to the final Rally Spain podium last year, albeit his infraction occurred in an area where fans were in close proximity.
Solberg was handed a one-minute penalty which ultimately cost Solberg the WRC2 win after falling 1.2s shy of Toksport team-mate Gus Greensmith and eventual winner who labelled the penalty as “unpopular” and “harsh” in the post-event press conference.
Solberg was however lucky to only receive a one-minute penalty as the FIA regulations state that a break of this regulation carries a minimum five-minute penalty.
The penalty was met with criticism from many within the service park having occurred at a time when there is plenty of discussion regarding ways the category can be more appealing to fans and manufacturers.
“Obviously there are many things which are going against each other,” said M-Sport’s Tanak.
“The first thing is doing doughnut in what the FIA said is not a safe environment and 10 seconds before you are going flat out on the same road. And then it’s suddenly unsafe.
“But also the regulation is written that if you do a doughnut you get a minimum five-minute penalty and then you give one minute, so why do you do regulation if nobody follows them?”
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2
Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
The FIA issued the following statement to Motorsport.com in response to why only a one-minute penalty was applied.
“The Stewards worked until 01:45 this morning to assess the situation and apply the regulations presented by the WRC Commission for FIA World Motor Sport Council ratification last December,” read the statement.
“The regulations were revised in response to an incident of exhibition driving before the final podium on RallyRACC Catalunya in October 2022 after which it was agreed that a monetary fine was not a suitable penalty due to the danger the incident posed to bystanders.
“On Rally de Portugal, the Stewards made a decision by taking into account all information available to them, including the statement by the crew that they had not read the regulations which are published before each event.
“Applying a time penalty of one minute compared to the five-minute penalty listed in the regulations is proportionate in view of the circumstances as explained in their decision.»
Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi understands why the regulation was introduced but felt the penalty was “rude” given the doughnuts were completed in a safe environment away from the fans.
“On the other hand the rule is clear, but I don’t know there were five thousands, six thousand people watching and it is a show for them,” said Lappi.
“It is not a safety issue there, there is a concrete wall and the spectators are back, so why not [do it]? I understand that if you do doughnuts before the finish ramp there can be a lot of people next to you and something strange can happen, but in that kind of safe area it [the penalty] felt a bit rude.”
Oliver Solberg, Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2
Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
Hyundai boss Cyril Abiteboul added: “I think we need to be a bit more pragmatic about these things. One side says that the sport needs some change and create a bit more entertainment and everyone is talking about Formula 1 and what recipe made it into that platform. We can’t do that on one side and then be very restrictive on the regulations.”
Solberg accepted the penalty but is hopeful the regulation will be changed in the future to allow drivers to provide more entertainment for fans in a safe environment.
“It was a mistake if you look at the rules, but I don’t think it is a mistake when you think about what the sport could be and should be,” he said.
“The sport can be so much more and so much bigger for fans and that is what I believe. I just do what I enjoy in life and I try to bring joy to other people. I got that inspiration from Ken [Block]. I don’t regret anything I did, but clearly it was a mistake.
“I hope so,” he added, when asked about if the rules could change in the future. “I hope we can do doughnuts and make fun for people that came to Lousada for example.”