Henning Solberg showed he can still mix it with the WRC's young guns after taking an impressive fifth on Rally de Portugal last weekend.

The Norwegian, who was taking in his first gravel event in a World Rally Car for more than two years, set some good times in his Pirelli-shod M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, concluding the event just 19.7 seconds behind Andreas Mikkelsen in fourth. The result equalled his best-ever result on Rally de Portugal and also saw him give Pirelli its best overall result in its comeback year.

"I am very satisfied with the job we have done this weekend. This is my first time in a world rally car on gravel in more than two years, and my last rally before that was Sweden, so for this position I am very, very happy. I was really very pleased with the pace we were able to set," reflected the 42-year-old, who was the top privateer at the finish.

"I can go faster in the future, I am sure of that. I'm an old guy, but I am very motivated. Give me a couple of days testing and I'll be beating these young guys again, I can tell you that!"

"I am very fast; I just have to improve a bit more physically," he added.

M-Sport managing director, Malcolm Wilson OBE noted: "Henning Solberg, is there really much more that you can say? It's always a pleasure to have Henning in the service park, and to see him performing so well here this weekend - more than two years after his last outing in a world rally car on gravel - is something very special.

"A very competitive performance from him and Ilka [Minor, his co-driver] and if we see them back this year, I'm sure he'll be challenging the young guys once again."

Pirelli's senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga meanwhile was delighted to see the Norweigan prove the capabilities of the companies new Scorpion XR tyre.

"To come here and score this result with Henning is extremely encouraging. It's not just the performance of the new Scorpion tyre that we were pleased with, but also the wear rate: a key part of Henning's success as it enabled him to conserve some of the allocation of his soft tyres. Portugal is one of the hardest events of the year, as the rate of attrition showed, but the design of the tyre provided all the grip that was needed, enabling a privateer driver such as Henning to be challenging for the top places. Our priority was also to minimise wear, in order to make one set last for as long as possible," Braga remarked.



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