Superleague Formula championship leader Craig Dolby will start tomorrow’s first Magny-Cours race on pole after come-from-behind victories in qualifying against Yelmer Buurman and Sebastien Bourdais.
The Tottenham driver holds a 48-point lead in the title hunt despite never previously excelling in qualifying, scoring his best results by racing through the field from lowly starting positions.
But this time he was fastest in the group stages of qualifying – despite being drawn in a ‘group of death’ that also included most of the championship frontrunners as well as ex-F1 driver Robert Doornbos and reigning title-holders Liverpool – then beat all-comers in the knock-out rounds.
He said: “I’ve never been a strong qualifier in Superleague Formula but I’ve been working hard with the team on it and so to pull this lap out is fantastic.
“Finally it has all come together and it’s a wicked feeling. The races are a different proposition and are always very difficult, but we’ll just go out there and see what happens.”
Qualifying group A had been disrupted early on when Sevilla’s Marcos Martinez crashed at the fast Imola chicane on his first flying lap, costing AS Roma’s Julien Jousse and Olympique Lyonnais’ Bourdais their best times as they were set under the ensuing yellow flag.
The group was topped by Davide Rigon, the Anderlecht driver leading FC Porto’s Alvaro Parente, Beijing Guaon’s John Martin and Bourdais into the next round. Jousse, unable to rediscover his earlier speed, was among the drivers failing to advance.
In group B, Dolby was 0.085sec faster than AC Milan’s Buurman, with Chris van der Drift of Olympiacos and FC Basel’s Max Wissel also qualifying. James Walker’s Liverpool was the best of the teams not to make it through, with other victims including Franck Perera for Flamengo and Franck Montagny of Bourdeaux.
The quarter-final stage of the one-lap knock-out rounds saw Dolby defeat Bourdais, recovering after the Frenchman was the fastest in the first two sectors of the lap. Wissel beat Rigon, Buurman beat Martin, and van der Drift beat Parente.
In the semis, Dolby dispatched Assen race-winner van der Drift while Buurman took advantage of an engine failure for Wissel to reach the final. There he out-paced Dolby in the first two sectors before the Spurs driver pulled back the tie in the last sector, just as he had done in the quarters against Bourdais.
Buurman said: “In one way it is great to be on the front row, but you always want to be the best and get the pole. We had the speed to do it this weekend so it’s a little bit disappointing to miss out, but I had a problem with my rear brakes locking in the final.”
Both Superleague races take place tomorrow, with the grid for the second decided by reversing the result of the first race.