Why Melton racer Craig Dolby is all smiles ahead of Monza return

Melton racing driver Craig Dolby during his stint as a factory driver EMN-170926-184939002
Melton racing driver Craig Dolby during his stint as a factory driver EMN-170926-184939002
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Expect racing driver Craig Dolby to be wearing a smile this weekend as he returns to Italy for his latest crack at the iconic Monza circuit.

It has been a rollercoaster handful of years for the Melton racer since leaving his factory drive with Nissan race team JRM Racing.

Craig Dolby. Photo: Xynamic Automotive Photography. EMN-170926-185057002

Craig Dolby. Photo: Xynamic Automotive Photography. EMN-170926-185057002

After a couple of lean years, a season-long paid drive has remained elusive, but the barren years have helped him appreciate the opportunities that are now coming his way.

This weekend he will drive a Lamborghini for long-time friend Nigel Mustill in the European GT Open Championship at the legendary track.

And Dolby will have no choice but to smile, come what may.

“Nigel says if we aren’t smiling when we’re away racing, then we will pack everything away in the lorry and go home,” he said.

“I have probably enjoyed the last two years the most. When you are racing every other weekend, getting paid and been flown around the world, you can take it for granted a little.

“But when it’s all been taken away from you and you’re not racing at all, it makes you appreciate it so much more when you do get in a car.

“I am going away, getting paid, having fun and being around people that I like.

“I’m more relaxed about things now, and Nigel has become my second dad.”

It will be Dolby’s third outing of the season in the Lamborghini, and after mechanical problems at Spa Francorchamps, the 29-year-old showed his true colours at Silverstone earlier this month.

There he outpaced many of the established drivers racing for multi-million pound factory teams, making up 11 places on his stint to finish 12th.

“The results show that I’m driving well and that’s the main thing,” Dolby added.

At Monza, Dolby will partner young up-and-coming driver Seb Morris fresh from his win in the British GT Championship.

Dolby has plenty of experience at the home of the Italian Grand Prix, having driven there during his successful Superleague Formula career and, two years ago, in the Blancpain series.

“It’s so special,” he said. “Monza is one of the fastest tracks in the world, so we will be going pretty quick.

“If we get everything spot on we will be around the top five.”

Dolby has had to broaden his horizons as a driver to pay the mortgage, including coaching, and there has also been more film work as a stunt driver.

But despite a career littered with knockbacks and harsh luck, the track remains his heart’s desire.

“Next year I’ll be looking at more racing, and I’m still looking for factory outfits,” said the former John Ferneley School pupil.

“You have to keep chipping away and hope something clicks.

“The sport’s becoming more and more about money; the costs are through the roof now.

“You get a paid drive and instantly you’ll have people ringing up saying, ‘I will bring money to the team’.

“It’s hard getting replaced by drivers who pay to be there.

“I would be quite happy to get replaced by a driver who is quicker than me, but there aren’t many who can do that.”

The races take place at 3.15pm on Saturday and 1.15pm on Sunday (GMT) and you can catch it on BT Sport and live on YouTube.