Melton racer Craig Dolby lands McLaren dream drive

Craig Dolby EMN-160604-110822002

Craig Dolby EMN-160604-110822002

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Race ace Craig Dolby will emulate his hero Ayrton Senna this weekend when he drives for the legendary McLaren team.

The Melton driver will race in the opening round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Series for McLaren GT’s newly-formed Garage 59 team.

Dolby celebrates during his successful years in Superleague Formula EMN-160604-124805002

Dolby celebrates during his successful years in Superleague Formula EMN-160604-124805002

Dolby impressed in the global Blancpain series last season for Nissan, but feared he would be left on the sidelines for 2016.

The last-gasp call-up from McLaren - eight-time winners of the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship - was more than worth the wait.

“It means a hell of a lot,” he said. “My hero was Ayrton Senna and I grew up watching him race for McLaren.

“To say I’ll also be racing for them is a massively proud moment for me and my family.

“I tested the McLaren a couple of weeks ago at Rockingham thinking they just needed some help with a customer day.

“But I got a call from them on Friday evening asking me to race in Misano. It’s quite a relief to be honest.

“I knew there were talks going on last week, but I really didn’t expect a drive so close to the season.”

Garage 59 team manager Bas Leinders, a former test and reserve driver for the Minardi Formula 1 team, said: “We tested Martin and Craig at the beginning of the year and it was clear from the outset their pace was very good.

“They are both very professional racers which is important when selecting drivers for the Blancpain GT Series; the level of racing is so competitive.

“We are very confident that we have the right team, the right car and now the right drivers.”

Dolby jets off to Italy today ahead of testing and qualifying for Sunday’s races at the Misano circuit.

It is a track he knows and enjoys, having put the Nissan on the front row of the grid last year.

But just six days ago he still remained without a seat in a big championship.

Dolby won plenty of admirers after some thrilling attacking racing last year in the Nissan GT-R GT3 for Always Evolving Racing and MRS GT.

But with neither team returning to Nissan for this year’s campaign, the Melton driver was left without a team.

He added: “I had bits lined up to keep me in the car, coaching and working with drivers, and my normal bits.

“But I really wanted to stay in Blancpain because I think I have unfinished business there.

“At the end of last year I think everyone saw my true potential when we put the car on the front row and led at the Nurburgring.”

The 28-year-old will team up with Martin Plowman one of the mst respected GT drivers on the circuit.

Plowman can boast class wins in the iconic Le Mans 24-hour and FIA World Endurance Championship.

It will be a familiar line-up after the pair drove together for the Nissan team in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

“We learnt a lot from each other last year and think we will only grow again in this environment,” Dolby said.

“We have very good drivers around us in the sister car, and the team manager and principals are very experienced drivers who I looked up to.”