Dolby charges to well deserved Zolder pole
Craig Dolby (England) has taken a superb pole position for tomorrow’s Superleague Formula Grand Prix of Zolder, keeping his cool during a rain-affected final contest with Chris van der Drift (New Zealand) to grab the box seat for the Belgian event.
Dolby topped Group A before overcoming Andy Soucek (Spain – Atletico de Madrid) in the quarter finals of Superleague’s unique qualifying format. He then looked set for a semi final exit as Neel Jani (Belgium – RSC Anderlecht) outpaced him in the first two sectors of the lap, but the Englishman – who has his family cheering him on this weekend – dug deep to produce a breathtaking final sector and join van der Drift in the final. Jani – one of the pre-qualifying favorites for pole position – had to be satisfied with third on the grid for tomorrow’s opening race.
Series returnee van der Drift also escaped from Group A, progressing with the fourth fastest lap. His quarter final was an all-Antipodean encounter, with the New Zealander pulling off something of a shock by eliminating the much-fancied Australia entry of John Martin. Van der Drift continued his march to the final by easily dispatching Frederic Vervisch (Luxembourg) in the semis by a margin of 0.717s.
As if the prospect of a final between Dolby and van der Drift wasn’t excitement enough, rain began to fall as the cars waited to hit the track. Slicks were still the order of the day but the circuit had undoubtedly been made far more challenging.
Dolby was fastest from the word go. Second on the road for the deciding encounter, he was nearly a second to the good through the first sector. During the second sector van der Drift locked up and ran off the road, giving Dolby a clear run to a well-deserved pole position. The Kiwi racer joins him on the front row, a stellar result in his first Superleague Formula appearance of the season.
Third place starter Jani will be joined by Vervisch on the second row of the grid with Dutch-born racers Robert Doornbos (Japan) and Yelmer Buurman (Netherlands-PSV Eindhoven) sharing row three. Defeated quarter-finalists Martin and Soucek make up row four.
The group stages of qualifying produced a few shocks, with Assen polesitter Tristan Gommendy (France-Girondins de Bordeaux) eliminated as the slowest qualifier in Group B and opening round victor Duncan Tappy (Turkey-Galatasaray) eliminated from Group B.
Craig Dolby (England):"It was an interesting session. The group stages went to plan but in my semi-final I made a mistake at the start of the lap. Fortunately I was able to make the time up later on, but Neel Jani was very fast. We then spent a long time in the pitlane before the final and it began to rain. Being second on the road for the final was a good thing because it allowed me to see what Chris was doing and that made my life a lot easier. It's great to be on pole - I'm very happy."
Chris van der Drift (New Zealand): “Being the one leading the way in the final I had to judge the grip on the track, which was difficult. Conditions were tricky, and halfway around the circuit I locked the rears and went straight on. But it’s still really good to be back at the front and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Weather-wise I don’t mind if it’s wet or dry, so long as it’s one or the other.”
Neel Jani (Belgium – RSC Anderlecht): “It was quite a good qualifying session for us. In my semi final with Craig, I think he used push-to-pass in a better part of the circuit than I did and that cost us. Still, I’m pleased to be on the second row; we’ve been quick all weekend so tomorrow we will go for it.”
Frederic Vervisch – (Luxembourg): “I’m happy as this is my best qualifying position so far in Superleague Formula. Qualifying isn’t my strongest suit, but it’s something I’m working on and getting stronger in. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and think we’ve got a lot to be positive about heading in to race day.”