Craig Dolby driving the England car had a bitter-sweet weekend at the Superleague Formula Grand Prix of Zolder. While he had comfortably qualified on pole position on Saturday, by the time he had eaten breakfast on Sunday morning, the race stewards had dropped him back to 2nd spot on the grid for a minor technical infringement.
However such is the confidence of the 23 year old that he just took it the chin, “So we just have to win from second”.
Chris van der Drift in the New Zealand car who had inherited the Pole position is a top-flight driver in his own right, and from the start set-out looking to get a race win under his belt. Dolby though stalked him throughout the opening exchanges.
He snatched the lead of the 40-minute run during the pit stops, the England crew turned their man out the best part of a second faster than their rivals, allowing Dolby to re-join the action in P1.
From here Dolby was in his element. With a clear track in front of him he hammered home the fast laps to carve out a comfortable lead and eventually win by 3.051s.
Neel Jani (Belgium - RSC Anderlecht) took second position, the Swiss-born racer also leapfrogging van der Drift during the pit stop phase. From there he worked to eliminate Dolby's advantage but didn't have the ultimate pace of the Englishman.
Race Two sees a reversed grid which meant that Dolbly stated at the back, but with a race win already under his belt, claiming just a few additional places would have seen him easily qualify for the SuperFinal as one of the top eight cars. The SuperFinal is where the big cash prizes are settled with the winner walking away with Euros100,000.
However mechanical gremlins turned what had seemed destined to be a memorable weekend on its head. The Englishman, who was at the time the championship leader, suffered a gearbox failure and was forced to retire from Race Two. “We're very disappointed by that, the boys and myself had worked so hard over the weekend and we had an awesome race car as we showed in Race One. We had so much pace and I wasn't really pushing it that much either.”
“In Race Two we had decided to save a set of good tyres for the SuperFinal and just try and bring it home safely qualified. Unfortunately something in the gearbox broke and we're still not sure what. All we had to do was finish and we would have qualified, the team kept me out in the car to see what could happen and we'd have been there with a very good set of tyres.”
“We will be back though for the next one, after seeing the raw speed in the car and the way we qualified I think that a few people will be a bit worried after that, and we'll come back fighting twice as hard.”
In the SuperFinal it was left to Belgian driver Frederik Vervisch, in the Luxembourg car, John Martin (Australia) and Neel Jani to be the first three home in the dash for cash. Though the Super Final is only an eight car, five-lap sprint, it started in sunshine but a heavy shower on parts of the course almost saw Vervisch exit the proceedings whilst in the lead on the penultimate lap, as he lost grip entering the chicane, allowing Martin and Jani to close right-up and provide a thrilling three-way scrap to the line, Vervisch holding on to record the win.
After the weekend action Dolby (England) is in joint second position with Japan, behind John Martin (Australia).