Some said it was a joke and it wouldn’t last. But Superleague Formula, the football-themed racing championship with cars branded to match leading soccer clubs, begins its biggest season yet with three races at Silverstone this weekend.
The field will include ex-F1 drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Franck Montagny, Robert Doornbos and Narain Karthikeyan, alongside a solid cast of experienced competitors attracted by the substantial cash sums on offer to winning teams and drivers.
Among them are three Britons: rising star Craig Dolby, who is returning for Tottenham Hotspur with serious ambitions towards winning the championship; ex-Formula Renault 3.5 title contender James Walker who takes over at defending champions Liverpool; and Tottenham and Galatasaray veteran Duncan Tappy, newly-signed for this year at Flamengo.
Dolby, the runner-up in last year’s championship, said: “To be back in the car with Spurs again is exciting but to be at Silverstone is going to make it a very special weekend for me. Unfortunately I’ve not driven the Grand Prix circuit yet so I’ll find out what that’s like in practice. It’ll be a bit new to me but I’ll be giving it absolutely everything like normal to put on a good show for everybody.
“It’s going to be awesome for the spectators to hear those V12 engines fly around Silverstone and down Hangar Straight, that’s for sure. From a driving point of view, I think a fast and flowing circuit is going to suit me down to the ground and with the push-to-pass there’s bound to be some entertaining racing. I’m certainly planning on making a good start to the year.”
Walker has previously subbed at Rangers and Borussia Dortmund, winning a race. He said: “I’m obviously really looking forward to my home round at Silverstone. I was quick there in Renault World Series last year, finishing second in the feature race and qualifying on the front row, and I think my driving style definitely suits the high-powered cars round a circuit like that. The home support is definitely going to help as well so I can’t wait.
“The battle between myself and Craig is going to be good. I know him away from the track reasonably well but I haven’t yet raced against him on-track so it’s going to be interesting. He was very quick last year but I’m not sure how much experience he’s got around Silverstone so I’m going to get down to work during testing and make sure we’re in good shape for a strong weekend.”
Also on the grid will be Surrey’s Duncan Tappy as a late signing for Brazilian club Flamengo. The 2007 Formula Renault champion drove for Spurs in Superleague’s debut season and took three podiums, then moved to Galatasaray for part of last year.
This season, he will take turns in the Flamengo seat with Franck Perera and Bruce Jouanny – the three share a management company, CJ Motorsport, which is promoting them as a football-style “dream team”.
“To our knowledge, it’s the first time the team ethos has been applied to motorsport,” said CJ Motorsport director Serge Celebidachi. “It really is taking the football team spirit or even the tennis Davis Cup team approach and applying it to a sport that has been very individual thus far. Our drivers are really excited about the idea and we feel it can be very effective.”
His colleague James Olivier said CJ had signed Tappy in the hope they could re-ignite a career that had suffered due to money woes: “We have been following Duncan’s career for several years and have always felt that he is a genuine talent, but lack of funding has often prevented him from displaying this on a consistent basis. However, when he has had continuity, he has been utterly dominant and that speaks for itself.
“CJ Motorsport is always particularly keen to support British talent and, in managing Duncan’s career, we will aim to help generate more opportunity and continuity so that he can show the full extent of his talent and regain the necessary momentum to climb up the professional motor racing ladder.”
Tappy himself said: “CJ Motorsport has a fantastic group of drivers so I feel very honoured and privileged to have signed with them. Racing in Superleague for the CJ Motorsport team is a great opportunity and I aim to drive my best as ever.”
BritsOnPole.com is owned by Onlineability, which provides web services to Tappy, CJ Motorsport, and another of their drivers, Sam Bird.