A lifelong dream will next month become a wonderful reality for racing driver Craig Dolby when he takes the start line for a leading global series.
The Melton racer will tear up the track at iconic circuits across the world in the Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Championships as lead driver for German commercial team MRS GT-Racing.
Last year Dolby became a factory driver for Daventry-based JRM Racing and drove for client teams in one-off races.
But Blancpain will mark his first full-time championship drive since 2010 when he finished runner-up in the international Superleague Formula series for a second consecutive season.
He will face all of the top manufacturers, including Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and BMW, and race against elite drivers, including several ex-Formula 1 racers.
Alex Zanardi and Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella were among the field last season.
He said: “I’ve always dreamt of becoming a professional racing driver and it’s finally happened.
“It’s great to be part of a fantastic championship - it’s the best GT championship in the world.
“There is a lot of responsibility on me as the pro driver in the car. Everyone will be looking at what I’m doing in the car, but we will all help each other and work as a team.
“They know how determined I am and how much I want to prove myself.”
The 26-year-old will climb into the 2015 spec of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 for the first time today ahead of two testing sessions in France and another in Germany.
His season kicks off in just four weeks with the first round of the sprint series at Nogaro, in France. A week later the endurance campaign begins at the Italian Grand Prix circuit Monza.
He added: “By the time we get to the first race in Nogaro we hope to be there or thereabouts.
“We just have to make sure testing goes right and we are quick and consistent.
“This is when the fun starts for me. I can’t wait to get going.”
The British rounds of both series take place in May, at Brands Hatch and Silverstone respectively. There are also special street races through Moscow and Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, where the season culminates in October.
But the calendar’s highlight is the Spa 24-hour race at the famous Belgian track on June 24.
In 2014 this showpiece event drew 62 cars to its grid and more than 150,000 spectators.
“Last year the top three were separated by 21 seconds after 24 hours which just shows how strong the field is and how hard it is to win,” he said.
“My motorsport roots are in Belgium and I have a lot of friends and support over there so it will mean a lot to me.”
Dolby will also mentor young team-mate Sean Walkinshaw, the son of former Arrows F1 team boss Tom, who has joined from Formula 3 to progress his career.
As a former single seater driver whose F1 dream was dashed by lack of a huge budget rather than talent, Dolby is keen to help.
He said: “There are a lot of drivers like me who haven’t got to F1, and I hope this shows them there are manufacturers out there who are picking up young talented drivers. I hope this can help spur them on.”
Since taking up racing as a boy on the karting circuit, Dolby has become a popular figure among fellow drivers and the motorsport industry.
He was quick to relay his long-awaited good news to those who have helped him throughout his career including parents Russ and Julie, long-time supporter Martin Betts and JRM’s James Walters.
He said: “I’ve got here by going out myself and finding the right people. They saw the passion I had for this sport and have given me an opportunity.
“I feel like the luckiest boy alive.”