Craig Dolby produced a star performance for Tottenham Hotspur in the opening Superleague Formula by Sonangol race of 2010, dominating at home circuit Silverstone to give the London club a dream start to the new season.
After helping Spurs finish second behind English Premier League rivals Liverpool in the final Superleague Formula league table in 2009, Dolby had used the pre-race build-up to state his intention of bringing the title to White Hart Lane this year and backed up his words with a simply stunning display.
From fourth on the grid, Dolby blasted away from the start and had already passed Liverpool’s new signing James Walker and Porto star Alvaro Parente by turn 1 before nailing pole man Max Wissel of Swiss club FC Basel into turn 2. He then proceeded to pull clear at a rate of two seconds per lap in the early stages, building a comfortable lead which never dipped below 12 seconds after lap 6, other than during his compulsory pit stop.
Dolby’s early-race heroics gave his pit crew the luxury of a leisurely, safe stop during Spurs’ mandatory tyre change and the rest of the field never even came close to concerning the young Brit during the remainder of the race.
AC Milan took second place as winter signing Yelmer Buurman continued the tradition of Dutchman excelling with the Rossoneri. Starting from seventh, Buurman made a strong start and was elevated to fourth as Liverpool and FC Basel both spun in the early stages. A succession of quick laps prior to the pit window saw him leapfrog FC Porto during the stops and he grabbed second after hunting down and passing Flamengo’s Duncan Tappy in the second half of the race.
Tappy, making his Superleague Formula return and his debut for the Brazilian champions, did well to hang on to third at the chequered flag. He struggled on used tyres after his stop but doggedly defended his position in the dying minutes from the flying Parente who had to settle for fourth, albeit with fastest lap.
Wissel recovered from a spin early in the race when running second to finish fifth, while Marcos Martinez managed an impressive series’ debut by holding onto sixth despite coming under strong pressure from Sporting Lisbon’s Borja Garcia, who had to settle for seventh.
Julien Jousse (AS Roma), Davide Rigon (Anderlecht) and John Martin (Atletico Madrid) completed the top ten, Martin losing two places late on with a spin at Copse Corner.
Sebastien Bourdais’ hopes of a strong result on his debut for French giants Lyon ended during his pit stop. He had briefly led after the top four pitted, but saw his race ruined after his engine stalled during his stop and ended up a lap down in 15th.
Tyre gambles by Olympiacos and Galatasaray also backfired as the Greek and Turkish clubs opted to start the race on used wet tyres on a damp but drying track. It quickly proved obvious that it was a wrong call as both Chris van der Drift (Olympiacos) and Tristan Gommendy (Galatasaray) struggled as the surface dried out and had to pit for slicks. They finished down in 13th and 14th respectively.
It was also a tough start to the season for reigning champions Liverpool, for who new signing Walker had impressed in qualifying. The Jersey-born driver had got ahead of Porto and was running third when he retired on lap 3 after spinning at Club and losing the engine as he tried to rejoin.
Race 2 will see a fully-reversed grid meaning Dolby will start from the back.
Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur): “I think it sums it up that on the in-lap I forgot to talk to the team until two corners from the end, so it was a bit surreal really. I got all three guys in the first couple of corners and then thought it would be difficult being the first person to see where the grip was. I just kept pushing and pushing, had a few little moments but the gap got bigger. The team stopped putting the pit board out so I didn’t know how big the gap was! At the end they just said ‘bring it home’ and what a feeling it was. Unbelievable.”
Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan): “The start was quite difficult because there were some damp patches but I eventually managed to find good pace and a gap front to back. We had good pace throughout the race but once I got past Duncan Tappy the gap was too big to catch Tottenham. The second race will be difficult from the back but we will see what the weather does.”
Duncan Tappy (Flamengo): “I keep using the phrase ‘over the moon’ this weekend. I said if I got into the qualifying quarter finals I would be over the moon, said if I’d make the podium I’d be over the moon, so now if I make the Super Final, I will be over the moon! I think that’s what we’re hoping for now. That last race was exactly what we needed so I can’t complain too much. We’ll see what happens in the second race. It depends if people are a bit silly and fire it off all over the place!”
Race 2 and the five-lap Super Final will be live on ESPN in the UK.
TV times, Sunday 4 April
Race 2 & Super Final: 13.50-15.30
ESPN: Sky 417, Virgin Media 529, BT Vision 34, Talk Talk 555, Freeview (Top Up TV) 34.