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So near, so far in SF

Craig Dolby grabbed the podium spot he was after in the opening round of Superleague Formula, 2009 - and it could have been even better.

Craig Dolby grabbed the podium spot he was after in the opening round of Superleague Formula, 2009 - and it could have been even better.

Our new driver kicked-off the season with fourth place in Saturday's qualifying session at the famous Magny-Cours circuit in France.

He was then third in race one on Sunday morning and spectacularly cut through the field in race two only to be struck by mechanical problems on the final lap.

Nevertheless, the Tottenham Hotspur team hold a healthy fourth place overall in the standings behind Liverpool, Anderlecht and AC Milan.

Liverpool started in pole position in race one (both races are 45 minutes plus one lap) and moved clear of the chasing pack.

Craig managed to get past Corinthians for third but fell back to seventh following the car's mandatory pit stop.

He fought back up to third and then had a battle with his former club Anderlecht for the runners-up spot - the Belgian side took it by less than a second.

Grid positions are reversed for race two from the finishing positions of race one and that meant the Tottenham Hotspur car lined-up in 16th of 18 on the grid.

That mattered little to Craig, however, as he ripped through the field.

Overtaking just about every lap, he forced his way up to sixth by the half-way stage and with cars taking their mandatory pit stops between laps eight and 20, he found himself in first place.

He managed to move seven seconds clear before coming into the pits for his tyre change but came out back in sixth.

He was promoted to fifth when AS Roma had mechanical problems and was challenging Al Ain for fourth going into the final lap when the car suffered system pressure failure, resulting in no gears and a dramatic loss of speed that allowed cars to pass. He was eventually 10th.

The problems meant the car was unable to compete in the Super Final - a new concept where the top six cars (usually the three podium finishers from race one and two) meet over another nine minutes, plus one lap. The winner of the Super Final wins 100,000 Euros - there are no championship points on offer - and Liverpool took the chequered flag from AC Milan.

SF, Magny Cours

Despite the disappointments of the second race, Craig was upbeat, not least after delivering the podium finish he sought after.

"We came out of the weekend with a podium and that's what we wanted to do," reflected Craig on Monday. "We've got solid points on the table and it's a positive start for us.

"I was happy with the gap behind Liverpool in race one but we had a bad pit stop and came back out in seventh. By the time I got back to Anderlecht there was only three laps to go and I'd used the best of the tyres.

"We set the fastest lap of the race and without the bad pit stop, I'm sure we would have been fighting for a race win.

"I drove my heart out in the second race. I attacked the race and managed to overtake a lot of cars in a short space of time.

"I knew there was a problem with four laps to go. The car was struggling to change down gears and I was trying to nurse it home. That's why the other cars were catching me.

"I thought I could hold them off but on the last lap it got stuck in fifth gear and that's why we dropped five places. It was disappointing because if we'd have finished fifth, we'd have been leading the championship.

"We're looking strong and I'm not too down about the weekend. The team is working flat out on the car for the next round in Zolder and in theory we'll be even stronger.

"I feel good because we've performed well in the first race and that was the one I was most worried about because I hadn't driven since November. To come out of the first meeting so strongly and know there is more to come from the car as well is all positive news for us."

The next round is at Zolder, Belgium, on July 18/19.

Craig Dolby