Melton racer Craig Dolby positive despite shunt on Blancpain Sprint debut

The Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in action at Nogaro. Picture: Xynamic Automotive Photography EMN-150804-121328002
The Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in action at Nogaro. Picture: Xynamic Automotive Photography EMN-150804-121328002
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Melton race ace Craig Dolby was happy to take the positives despite a frustrating start to the 2015 season in France last weekend.

Dolby’s chances of success in the opening race of the Blancpain Sprint Series were over before they had really begun.

The 27-year-old was caught up in a shunt on the very first lap at Nogaro, forcing his Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 to retire from Sunday’s race along with two other rivals.

With emergency parts flown over from the UK, and a sleepless night for the Molitor Racing team mechanics, Dolby and team-mate Sean Walkinshaw were able to race the next day.

But with Sunday’s finishing positions deciding the grid positions for Monday’s main race, the German-based team decided to keep their powder dry for round two.

The pair crossed the line in 15th, but the weekend still offered plenty of hope. Dolby’s blistering qualifying lap was a tantalising glimpse of what could be achieved this season.

Dolby said: “The weekend started really well. Getting through to super pole in qualifying was our goal, so to finish up in P5, only four tenths off pole, was really good. The team set me a target of 1.25.8 and I ended up with a 1.25.1.

“We take the positives; the speed was there. It was a track where we didn’t expect to be competitive, but we were strong.

“If that’s the sign of things to come I think we will have a very good season.”

The shunt was frustrating, but reminded the Melton racer the importance of qualifying the Nissan as far up the grid as possible to stay out of harm’s way come race day.

“Everyone started super aggressive for the first race of the season,” he added. “I was staying out of trouble, but got caught up in someone else’s accident.

“The Audi in front of me was spinning so I avoided it, but got hit from behind which spun me straight into the Audi.

“There was a lot of damage on the car so to get it racing again the following day was an achievement in itself.

“Our race pace was good, but starting so far back was always going to be difficult.

“By the time I got in the car, my engineer told me to focus on Brands Hatch and save the tyres.”

From France, Dolby flew straight out to Germany on Tuesday morning for more testing. He heads back to the airport today for a flight to Monza to prepare for this weekend’s opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.

There he and Walkinshaw will be joined by World Endurance champion Martin Plowman for Sunday’s three-hour race.

A huge field of 62 cars will take the start line at the iconic Italian circuit. Qualifying begins at 7am GMT ahead of the race at 12.30pm.

Dolby added: “In endurance, every lap is like a qualifying lap, but because it’s such a long race hopefully it won’t be so aggressive at the start.”