SLF: Craig Dolby – get in!

By Nick Ledger

CalendarFriday, July 24th, 2009

 
 

Nick Ledger is a keen photographer and a mate of up-and-coming racer Craig Dolby, currently competing in Superleague Formula for the Tottenham Hotspur team. He’s written us this great trackside report of events at Zolder last weekend where Dolby took his maiden win in the series. Contributions of this kind are welcome – please contact us if you’d like to do something similar.

A bird’s-eye view of Craig’s maiden win in Superleague Formula

Until recently Craig Dolby had a low profile in the UK, thanks to budget constraints that meant he raced mainly in Europe, where he won in Formula Renault Belgium in 2006. Last year he landed a drive for Anderlecht in the series’ inaugural season and when the car was underneath him he was blinding. At the Nurburgring, having never set foot on the circuit, he had two second places – one from the back of the grid.

This season saw a move to Tottenham Hotspur and a bittersweet first round at Magny Cours. A podium and fastest lap in race one followed by a storming drive up to fifth in race two meant a front-row start was looking certain for the third race – the one with the money. Systems pressure failure put paid to that though, and Craig dropped to tenth on the last lap.

So at Zolder, he was out to make amends. Qualifying was OK. Second quickest in the quarter finals, but the quickest driver was in his quarter final with him so he progressed no further, qualifying sixth. Craig wasn’t bothered though, he knew the team was quick and was looking forward to Sunday.

Race one got under way smoothly – until the first corner. Portugal punted Craig going into turn one, breaking his rear diffuser, before spinning back into the field and taking out Corinthians and Madrid. Craig was dropped to eighth but had the bit between his teeth. A few corners later Porto was lining himself up to overtake Anderlecht going into the chicane and in typical Dolby fashion (“There was half a gap so I took it”) Craig overtook them both.

A bit of well-earned emotion

A bit of well-earned emotion

After an early pit stop Craig was able to put in some quick laps on fresh tyres. They must have been bloody quick, because when the rest of the field had pitted he was comfortably in the lead. Things were looking really good and everyone was on tenterhooks. The safety car came out again, we held our breath, but nothing went wrong.

Six minutes to go and the race re-started. Craig pulled away comfortably and the next thing we knew there was the chequered flag. He’d won. And it was great! Everybody had a lump in their throat, everyone was cheering, the emotion was fantastic – he’d finally got the chance to prove himself against a world-class field… and with only half a rear diffuser.

After we’d all calmed down and had some chips, the heavens opened like it was the end of the world. So race two was wet. The Spurs car started moving through the field and had got up to ninth before the safety car came out when Flamengo and Galatasaray collided. On a drying track, the rest of the field started to pit and rejoin the safety car train.

Craig found himself out front but with quicker cars behind him which had pitted and were on slicks. His race effectively over, he rejoined back in ninth, a long way off the pack. An earlier pit stop could well have put him in line for a podium or even another win. He was certainly quick enough- setting the fastest lap of the race by a full second.

Some great racing at Magny Cours and Zolder has helped to lift Superleague’s profile. The stage is well-set for Donington next weekend. Craig’s quick there and he insists that Craners will be flat, whatever the weather.

Nick’s pics

A note on the images: because of persistent problems with our website software you may find you get a 404 error if you are viewing this in a feed reader and click on a link to see a full-size photo. You should be fine if you visit the page itself and click from there, however.

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