Q&A with Craig Dolby
By LJ Hutchins
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
This Q&A was conducted at a media event last Monday to promote the forthcoming Superleague Formula event at Donington Park. It took place before the weekend’s Zolder race which saw Dolby take a maiden victory in Race One. You can read about that here and view our pictures of the day here.
Here’s the audio of the interview. Please bear in mind that this was conducted a couple of feet clear of the Donington Park pitlane within minutes of Craig climbing out of his car, and with a motorcycle track day in progress on the circuit. Therefore the quality is rough, but we still think it is worth using, so you can hear Craig’s words as they were spoken.
Listen here (10 mins 7 secs)
BoP: How was it, out on the track today? It sounded brilliant.
CD: It was a bit of good fun to be honest, it was an hour of just playing. It’s great to come to a racetrack without any pressure on you, just to have fun.
BoP: It was certainly great to watch.
CD: Well, yeah, I think we tried to put on a bit of a show at times, round the hairpin I got the back end out a few times for people watching. Just the noise, and… this is what it’s like at a weekend, and it’s just great, you know? The actual engine sound is just mega, it’s unbelievable.
BoP: Everyone says the car is fantastic, the car is the centrepiece of the series. Tell us a little bit about what it’s like for you to drive it.
CD: It’s quite a difficult car to be honest. It’s good fun to drive but, because it is heavy it’s a handful and it makes us work, which is what motorsport is all about. It’s a true car, it doesn’t stick to the road, it actually moves around, that’s what motorsport’s about. We can get close and we can overtake, so it’s a nice car, I enjoy it.
BoP: From Anderlecht to Tottenham. What’s it been like to switch teams?
CD: It’s been OK at the minute. I think until Tottenham kicks off and the games start then… that’s when I’ll be being busy, being down there, watching games and things, but everyone’s really happy after Magny-Cours and yeah, we’ll carry on doing a good job and Tottenham are pleased. I’m happy being back to driving back in an English club.
BoP: Absolutely. We understood from talking to the other two British drivers today that there’s been some development work on the car, and the car is actually a bit handier now than it was last season.
CD: Yeah, the engine is a lot smoother now, which makes it probably a little bit more fun to drive because the throttle’s more responsive, so you can play around with the throttle a bit more whereas last year you got on the throttle and the engine wasn’t as smooth. Now you can actually put the car where you want it and have some fun.
BoP: And the power boost button’s a bit more boosty?
CD: A lot more boosty, yeah. Do you know, after Magny-Cours it was mega, to get that much power, it just makes the racing a lot more exciting because we can actually, from quite a distance, overtake.
BOP: Speaking abou the Magny-Cours weekend, it went really well, you got the podium in the first race and the second race was looking really good, coming from the back, and then something went horribly wrong.
CD: On the last four laps we lost system pressure in the car, so I had no gears, which is something we practised just then [in pitstops during the demonstration laps], switching into manual mode on the gearbox, which I didn’t know there was. There’s a switch in the gearbox that I can change to manual mode. Hopefully if it happens again… it’s not as quick but at least it will get you home to the finish. At Magny-Cours, on the last lap, we got stuck in fifth gear which is why we lost the five places. It was very hard going into the hairpin and not changing down gears. You were trying to use the brakes, and it was locking up tyres, and made me look like I had been locking up too much, really, but from inside the car it just wouldn’t change down. But no, I can’t moan, do you know, we had a great first half of that race, coming through the grid, and I loved every second. That’s just part of motorsport.
BoP: I’ve seen some of the video of it and, wherever you look is a white car going past.
CD: Exactly, and it’s good, especially to be a young English driver with hardly any budget being able to race against someone like Pizzonia, Bernoldi, Pantano, it’s unbelievable for me. I’m just there enjoying every second of it and enjoying the experience.
BoP: That makes me really happy to hear because so many people complain, the fans, moan and say ooh, everything is wrong. We think: well, this is a hobby, this is fun…
CD: I’m just enjoying it, and Superleague make it enjoyable. It’s unbelievable, all the drivers are so relaxed. Do you know, we’re just having fun, and that’s what motorsport’s about. It’s not so much serious and politics, it’s about we do on the track and we enjoy it. Off the track we’re all good friends.
BoP: Talking to Duncan [Tappy] and Jonathan [Kennard] both felt it is a great shop window for a young British driver without much budget. You couldn’t really ask for a better shop window than Superleague Formula.
CD: Not really. To go up against last year’s GP2 champion and ex-Formula One drivers is… what a chance, you know? And driving such a car…
BoP: Robert Doornbos is in IRL this year.
CD: Exactly. It is a shop window that has opened a lot of doors for me. Hopefully things will progress in the future.
BoP: What would you like to see happen in the future?
CD: Obviously the dream is to be Formula One World Champion, that’s the dream.
BoP: We have noticed, to our discomfort, that there are remarkably few up and coming Brits in F1 – no reserve drivers, no GP2 drivers in the obvious immediate F1 pyramid.
CD: It’s so hard for English drivers, I don’t know why, but for us to get money to drive is so difficult. Whereas in Spain and things they seem to be actually – the government fund the drivers. In England we get nothing.
BoP: Certainly we are seeing difficult times.
CD: It’s obviously difficult, but that’s where Superleague brings it to life, because we’ve got three good British drivers in there that all want to have the same goal and we are all capable of doing it.
BoP: This is one thing we love about it, actually, because it gets bums on seats. Some motorsport fans, especially hardcore Formula One fans, are a bit sniffy about Superleague Formula, saying “ooh, it’s football”. What would you say?
CD: I would say it’s great. To get the fans from football and motorsport mixed is just getting more people involved in motorsport. Formula One is good and obviously the hardcore fans will just love Formula One. But any motorsport fan, to see this car go round, will just fall in love with it.
BoP: The first race last season clashed with a premiership match. Fans thought: “They’re not clued up about football.” It does seem to go the other way as well, the football fans are not as keen…
CD: I don’t know… Anderlecht last year, there was a lot of support there. This year, it’s my job really to get the fans involved. Last year I went to the ground and made the effort, and the fans saw – well, he’s made the effort to come and watch so let’s go and watch him. So here now, with Tottenham, the first game of the season is against Liverpool. What a chance to go down and be introduced to everybody and really try and work hard on it.
BoP: So they’re really promoting the tie-in this year?
CD: They’re trying to. Last year they had no other date they could fit Donington in. It was just unfortunate that it clashed on the big premiership day. This year, it’s earlier on, so there are no matches.
BoP: Last year the line up at the start of the season, there were all these names out of Champ Car, GP2, ex-F1, and we thought: hang on, there’s another British driver here we hadn’t noticed. To be blunt, we hadn’t heard of you, and to be fair, maybe, if you looked at that first year’s roster of drivers, you wouldn’t have stood out as one of the drivers with a reputation. And yet, there you were sticking it on the podium, you had a great run of results. Did you go into the season thinking: “I’ve got a fight on my hands here,” or did you feel equal with them?
CD: I knew it was going to be difficult, obviously, it wasn’t going to be the easiest of years racing against those kind of people. But the only reason people didn’t know about me was that I couldn’t afford to race in England and had to go to Europe to get the cheaper drives. And then, all of a sudden, Superleague. One of the teams I used to race for, Astromega, they said: right, Craig, the Anderlecht seat’s available and we want you in it. And we know you can prove yourself. So we came here, we were quite quick, obviously we had the problems, and then after the Nurburgring I think everyone knew who I was, double podium. And to force Pizzonia into mistakes… I knew I was good, or good enough to be there, and it was like, all through karting, being against the best drivers in karting. My dad would never let me do a race if there was average competition. It was always like I’d have to enter a race there was top people there. So I was always racing against the best, like [Mercedes DTM driver Paul] di Resta and people in England, and it made me a better driver.
BoP: And going to Europe was Hobson’s choice because of money as opposed to, for example, going to America and choosing something like Star Mazda or something that is possibly another route through?
CD: I think that’s a completely other route. It’s hard because I think that, as soon as you go to America, your F1 dream goes. It’s hard because you’d make money by going to America but it’s very hard to then come back over, like Bourdais has proved, and get to Formula One.
BoP: Also, Adam Christodoulou has gone over to America, so that is interesting.
CD: He’s doing very well and I think he will have a career in America, but whether he comes back to England, I don’t know. It’s very difficult to get that connection back. It seems a lot of drivers go there and don’t come back.
BoP: We were lucky enough to interview Darren Manning when he came over for the Le Mans Series 1000km of Silverstone and certainly the impression we got from him is that once you go over there, you don’t want to come back.
CD: It’s a different way of racing, really. And that’s where Superleague really… it’s a more relaxed way of racing and a fun way of racing, a bit like I would guess it is in America, and that’s why it is good fun. That’s why I think that if more people come along and see it then they will see motorsport in a completely different way. You watch Formula One now and the whole build-up to a race is politics… and it’s boring. I can’t watch the full build-up to a race. Do you know, when the race starts, I can watch but all the build-up, they don’t talk about drivers, or what they have done, or how hard they have to work, they just talk about Max Mosley and Ecclestone and this breakaway, and it just ruins the sport. And it makes every step of racing look bad. Because that’s the pinnacle of motorsport everyone thinks that it’s going to be happening that way. Whereas you come here and it’s good fun. Superleague put on a good weekend, everyone enjoys it. It’s just trying to get that over to the public, to come and actually get involved in the races.
BoP: And finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the British racing public?
CD: Obviously, now they know Craig Dolby’s on the map, I’m proud to be English and will hopefully do the country proud one day. Maybe in Formula One, but somehow.