Craig Dolby takes Euro 100,000 prize after incredible Superleague Formula Nations Cup opener
06.06.2011: Craig Dolby (England) netted a cheque for Euro 100,000 and a bag full of championship points after winning the weekend-ending Super Final as the 2011 Superleague Formula Nations Cup season began in spectacular style in Assen.
Craig Dolby (England) netted a cheque for Euro 100,000 and a bag full of championship points after winning the weekend-ending Super Final as the 2011 Superleague Formula Nations Cup season began in spectacular style in Assen.
After two thrilling 40-minute feature races, Dolby came out on top in the five-lap, dash-for-cash Super Final having jumped from fourth to second at the standing start before passing John Martin (Australia) for the lead and then holding off a determined challenge from Antonio Pizzonia (Brazil) in the final two laps.
Pizzonia, who hadn’t even sat in a single-seater for 18 months, rounded off a fine return to the series with second place and €50,000, while Yelmer Buurman (Netherlands – PSV Eindhoven) grabbed €40,000 and third place, despite making a terrible getaway at the start.
Martin, rookie Filip Salaquarda (Czech Republic – Sparta Prague) and Duncan Tappy (Japan) also secured cash prizes in fourth, fifth and sixth although Tappy’s disappointment at not having capitalised on his Super Final pole position was tempered by his stunning recovery throughout the weekend.
The British driver had suffered a gearbox problem on Friday, meaning he missed both Free Practice sessions, and then qualified at the very back of the 14-car on Saturday.
However, a strong drive through the field to seventh in the first race followed by an incredible victory in the second leaves the 26-year-old top of the points standings after the opening round, something that seemed barely feasible at the start of the weekend.
In typical Superleague Formula fashion, both races were stunning, action-packed affairs.
Tristan Gommendy (France – Girondins de Bordeaux) started on pole position for the opener and seemed destined for victory after a fault-free drive and pit stop in the first half of the race.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for the Frenchman, who pulled off into retirement with a throttle cable issue at mid-distance, but then the action kicked off!
Home favourite Robert Doornbos (Netherlands) inherited the lead from countryman Buurman, who had leapfrogged up the order having stopped late during the pit window. A gaggle of cars also formed behind including Frederic Vervisch (Luxembourg), Andy Soucek (Turkey – Galatasaray), Neel Jani (Belgium – RSC Anderlecht) and Dolby.
With just a few minutes remaining, Buurman made his move for the lead by going around the outside of Doornbos into the chicane, but the latter was squeezed so much that he leapt over the kerbs and suffered front wing damage.
While an unscathed Buurman pulled away into the lead, Doornbos battled desperately in his crippled car to hold onto second, causing a whole melee of action behind.
First Soucek moved past Vervisch for third as Dolby did the same to Jani for fifth, but then Soucek made contact with Doornbos as he challenged the Dutchman for second place and span down the order.
With one lap to go and barely 0.5 seconds covering second to fifth, Vervisch made his move on Doornbos, but the two also made contact, allowing Dolby to jump past both!
Buurman crossed the line with a comfortable lead at the finish ahead of Dolby, while Vervisch survived to complete the podium in front of Jani. Having suffered suspension damage, Doornbos didn’t make the chequered flag, handling Salaquarda a solid fifth on debut ahead of Martin, Tappy and Pizzonia.
The second race was just as pulsating and again it looked like Gommendy might run away at the head of the field.
With the starting grid fully-reversed from the race 1 finishing order, Gommendy was once more on pole position and led the prior to the pit stops from Soucek and Earl Bamber (New Zealand).
However, Gommendy rejoined from his stop with his lead dramatically reduced and Soucek made his way past out of turn 1, only to be immediately handed a drivethrough penalty for crossing the white line when exiting the pit lane.
While Gommendy now led again, his pace slowed significantly in the final ten minutes of the race, allowing both Martin and Tappy to close up. Both got ahead of the Frenchman soon after and Tappy made a race-winning pass on Martin into the first corner late on, sealing a miraculous turnaround in his fortunes after the gearbox problems of Friday.
Second for Martin was a good result following his own issues in qualifying, while Pizzonia grabbed third in the dying stages of the race. Gommendy held on for fourth, scant reward having looked the strongest driver for much of the weekend, while Bamber was fifth.
Salaquarda again impressed with sixth place ahead of Soucek, while Dolby fought his way from the back of the grid to eighth ahead of Jani and race 1 winner Buurman.
After such a breathtaking opening event, the Superleague Formula Nations Cup now heads to Zolder in Belgium for round 2 on 16/17 July.
Craig Dolby (England): “It’s a great first weekend for me racing under the England banner and I’m so proud to have scored a victory for my country. We didn’t make it easy for ourselves in qualifying, but I think people know by now that we will always be there or thereabouts in the race. It was fantastic to be racing so close with John (Martin) and Antonio (Pizzonia) in the Super Final and I have a lot of respect for those guys. We’ve got €100,000 in our pockets and that means a big party tomorrow when we get back to England!”
Antonio Pizzonia (Brazil): “I’m really happy and we saw today that Superleague Formula produces the best racing! It’s amazing to race against these guys and the five-lap shootout was incredible. I tried to pass Craig (Dolby) and maybe I should have been more aggressive, but I used the push-to-pass in the wrong place twice. I love racing for Brazil and I know a lot of people are following me, so I have to do my best not only for me, but also my country. The people back home will be very happy and it will be a big boost for the series when we go to Brazil later in the year.”
Yelmer Buurman (Netherlands – PSV Eindhoven): “It feels great to be racing for your country and to finish on the podium of the Super Final having also won race 1. The team worked hard last night to solve our brake issues from qualifying and the car felt great. To come from eighth to win in the first race, at a track where it’s difficult to pass, was also very pleasing. We had some damage after the incident with Robert (Doornbos) but we didn’t really have time to fix it for race 2 so it was difficult. For the Super Final I made a really bad start, but then made up some places for a good result.”
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