Craig Dolby’s blistering start dampened by Spa rain

The new Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 enjoys drier conditions at Spa during testing EMN-150729-145910002
The new Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 enjoys drier conditions at Spa during testing EMN-150729-145910002
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Melton race ace Craig Dolby and team-mates were left distraught after their 24-hour adventure in Spa was cruelly cut short.

The 24 Hours of Spa race had been picked out by Dolby and his JRM Racing team as the highlight of the Blancpain Series since the season dates were confirmed.

Craig Dolby is raring to go at Spa EMN-150729-145921002

Craig Dolby is raring to go at Spa EMN-150729-145921002

And the 27-year-old seemed inspired by the occasion as he moved the car up from a starting spot of 34th up to sixth after a three-hour session at the rain-lashed Belgian circuit.

But their excitement soon turned to horror when Sean Walkinshaw aquaplaned through a lake of standing water and hit a wall.

The collision damaged the chassis beyond repair and the engineers were left to break the bad news to the drivers.

Dolby said: “Sean was a passenger – there was nothing he could have done. If any of us had been driving, the outcome would have been exactly the same.

“The guy who spotted the problem with the chassis didn’t want to tell anyone.

“It was like someone kicking you straight in the stomach. We were all in tears.

“I had wanted to watch the rest of it as a fan, but it was too hard so I drove home.”

Halfway down a starting grid which topped 60 cars on a wet circuit, Dolby was able to display all of his attacking nous and skill.

Within three laps he had made up 10 positions before a good pit-stop strategy propelled the car further up the field.

The Melton driver guided the new Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 up to seventh and then overtook the Audi which would eventually go on to finish third.

“I asked myself at the start do we just take it easy at the start because we have 24 hours to make up places,” Dolby added.

“But throughout my life I’ve raced best when I have pushed hard so I decided to push from the start.

“The overtaking moves were calculated - I had exit plans for all of them if someone moved across.

“The conditions were beginning to change so they asked me to stay in the car. I was in there for two-and-a-half hours, and if the rain hadn’t come I would’ve been there for more than three.”

Half of the cars failed to finish the race, with three of the leading cars in the Blancpain championship going off the track on the same lap as Walkinshaw.

The statistic was testament to the nature of the race as much as the conditions.

Dolby said: “There were 60 cars on the grid in torrential rain. You couldn’t even see the wing mirrors on your own car and you’re doing 130 or 140mph.

“I had never been more nervous in my life. You don’t want to damage your car on lap one of a 24-hour race.

“Normally you can plan a race but Spa 24 you can’t plan. You have to hope you have your lucky socks on and hope that it is kind to you.”

* The Blancpain GT Series resumes on September 5 and 6 in Portugal.