Superleague driver Craig Dolby takes the long road toward Formula One dream

Sitting in one of the vast temporary grandstands overlooking Silverstone, a few days after Fernando Alonso's dramatic victory, the scene is very much one of 'after the Lord Mayors show'. There is not much noticeable activity happening anywhere on the old WW2 airfield.

Take a few steps back from the circuit though and three racing cars are being taken from their workshops and loaded onto transporters, each car is liveried in a different national flag, Brazil, Australia and England. Amongst those at work is the English racing driver Craig Dolby who almost affectionately pats the nose of the car which is dressed in the team England flag.

Dolby has come in especially to help the team load-up. He doesn´t have to do this but it says a lot about the man that he does.

“I think of these guys almost as part of my family, so why wouldn´t I, they have given me a fantastic opportunity to race at the highest level, and I´ll never forget that.”

The cars are Superleague Formula cars, being taken to the Belgian circuit of Zolder where the will be competing this weekend in the Grand Prix of Zolder. The cars themselves are thoroughbred racers, powered by 4 litre, V12´s with 750bhp rising to 800bhp when drivers activate their ´push-to-pass´ system.

“I was here at Silverstone for the weekend watching the race and you see why F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and I´d love to show just what I can do.”

Dolby now 23, has taken a very unusual route to reach top-class motorsport. The road to F1 is not only hard but above all an expensive one, from karting to GP2, you will need a budget of at least €7 million to fund it that far, and even then it´s in the lap of the gods – or sponsors, as to whether you eventually get a drive.

He began racing karts as a four-year-old and won his first championship at eight. As he was entering Lewis Hamilton was ending his karting career and the two raced on occasions. Unlike Hamilton though his parents had sold their house to provide him with his opportunity to race, but by the age of 13 the money had run out.

However a family friend had seen enough innate ability to organize a test session in a Formula Renault car, and at 14 in his first experience of the car in Barcelona, he was only a second off the best lap times set by experienced drivers. He was though too young to race in the UK but he was eligible at 15 to race in the Renault 1600 championship in Belgium, competing at circuits like Zolder and the mighty Spa Francorchamps. In his first race, one week after his 15th birthday, he qualified in fifth and finished the race in third. He then won race two. By then end of the season he had finished fourth in the championship, collecting the most race wins along the way.

The following season he had signed a two year deal to race in Formula Renault in the UK, but halfway through the first season the team pulled out. In 2005 at the age of 17 it looked like his career was over already. He didn’t sit in a race car for over a year.

However someone in Belgium remembered his first season results and a call from the Astromega team offered him the chance to race again. “I needed to take enough money with me to pay for the first race, and I´d been working as a swimming pool life guard and I had saved enough to fund one round.”

“But after 18 months out of a car I was rusty and made a few mistakes. The team weren´t completely convinced, but they said I could race again if I paid for the drive. By this time I had nothing left, unbelievably my friends and my girlfriend at the time, all chipped in and raised enough for me to race in one round. I qualified on Pole and won both races and the team kept me on for the rest of the season and I won the championship.”

In 2007 the team set him up with a drive in France but the season was a low point. “I remember one race where the rain was coming down in buckets, but the mechanics were all working on my team mates car and I ended up lining up on the grid in slicks. It summed up the year.”

In 2008 it again looked like it had come to an end, when out of the blue, the Astromega team again called him to say that they were entering two cars in the brand new Superleague Formula series and wanted a driver for next weekend at Donington Park. “I had no idea what it was all about but when I went for my seat fitting and saw the cars I couldn´t believe it. They were and still are awesome.”

“I went straight into qualifying and finished 8th out of 18. It was amazing as there were people like Antonio Pizzonia and Richard Doornbos who had been racing in F1 and I was racing wheel-to-wheel with them. I was behind Pizzonia at Nurburgring and I was literally learning from him as I was in his wheel tracks, I´d never raced with carbon brakes. Then at some point I found that I was faster than him on the day, and this guy had raced with Williams and Jaguar. ”

2010 was a big year for Dolby as he again lined up in Superleague Formula, although he finished the season in second place, his win at Silverstone and victory in the Super Final gave him a cheque for €100,000, the first money that he had earned to keep as his own in his career. By the end of the season he agonizingly finished just two points adrift of Champion Davide Rignon, who was immediately signed to join the Ferrari F1 driver squad.

“Everything that I´ve been through as a young driver, when your parents sell a house and you go through so much emotion and now the desire to make it as far as I can is unbelievable. My parents are coming out this weekend to watch me race in Belgium and this will be the last race that they can afford to come to all year. So I´m going out there to win. I have such a great team around me now with Alan Docking Racing that I feel ready for Formula 1. I believe in myself, I´m not arrogant. It´s frustrating when you haven´t got the big budgets but when I see Davide doing things with Ferrari I know that I´m strong enough.”

“Superleague is a top-level world-class championship, it´s not F1 but when people watch it they are hooked. It is racing and motorsport at its absolute best. No matter what happens in my career I will always love this championship. It gave me a chance to race against top-class driver in top-class cars and for a young British driver without a big budget, it´s given me an opportunity to show just what I can do. Money talks in motorsport and Superleague Formula has given me a voice.”

You can watch this weekend's Superleague action at independent.co.uk/superleaguelive

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam