Hugley Competitive Top Five Finish Plus Fastest Lap Race for Walkinshaw and Dolby at Misano

Published: 05 October 2015
The incredible performance of the No.173 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 was clear to see.
The incredible performance of the No.173 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 was clear to see.

Pictured: The incredible performance of the No.173 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 was clear to see.

Blancpain Sprint Series front-runners Sean Walkinshaw and Craig Dolby produced absolutely searing pace throughout the penultimate event of the season at Misano over the weekend, 3rd/4th October, and were unlucky to come away from the Italian track without some podium silverware.

Taking away a best, and hugely entertaining, finish of fifth in the Main Race on Sunday, the Always Evolving Motorsport pairing had been well on course to secure their second rostrum visit of the season in the Qualification Race but lost out due to a cross-threaded wheel nut during the pit stop.

Even so, the incredible performance of the No.173 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 was clear to see – first with the second fastest time in qualifying and then with the fastest lap in both one-hour contests. Ultimately, the team-mates ended the event an improved 10th in the championship, just five points shy of the top eight and only 14 points outside the top six ahead of the season finale next weekend.

Chipping Norton-based Sean commented: “Considering where we qualified and where we were after the first stint in the Qualification Race, we should comfortably have had two podiums this weekend – we had fastest lap in both races with Craig and we both had mega pace.

“Unfortunately we had a cross-threaded wheel nut in the pit-stop in race one, so we lost the chance of the podium but everyone could see what the car was capable of. The AEM guys are just getting better and better every weekend, they’re all working really, really hard and making big steps forward. We’re confident Zandvoort next weekend should be very strong.”

Making a consistent start in free practice, 21-year-old Sean lapped sixth fastest in session one, Dolby repeated that in session two and the latter then secured second quickest in the third run to claim a front row spot for the night Qualification Race – lapping within 0.3 seconds of pole position.

At the rolling start, under the Misano floodlights, Dolby maintained second place and stayed within a few tenths of the pole-starting Ferrari of Norbert Siedler. On lap nine, though, racing fell under Safety Car conditions and the action didn’t resume until around the 25 minute mark.

Dolby made a good re-start, closing to within 0.3 seconds of the leading Ferrari on the first lap back at full speed, and he went on to post the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1m33.680 seconds (162.4km/h).

Swarming all over the back of Siedler’s car, Dolby stayed well in touch before pitting to hand the Nissan over to Sean in the mandatory pit stop. Due to the loss of time in the pit-stop, Sean rejoined in last position but into the final 20 minutes he had recovered into 13th place and quickly made his way into the top 12 before pressuring the No.19 Lamborghini.

Running just a few tenths of a second shy initially, into the last 10 minutes Sean upped his pace once more with lap times a match for the podium. Moving into 11th place on lap 30 with a strong pass, the AEM racer set his sights on breaking back into the top 10 into the closing minutes of the race and after taking 10th on lap 33, he then leapt into ninth following issues for one of the Audis.

Therefore beginning the Main Race on Sunday afternoon from ninth on the grid, Sean made a superb start to slice his way into seventh position and he swiftly closed up behind the Audi of Stephane Ortelli.

With nothing between the pair, Sean darted left and right to try and find a way past over the course of the first few laps, with the Audi also bottled up behind Atila Abreu’s BMW as a very tight three-way battle developed over fifth place.

With 15 minutes complete nothing had changed but as the race approached the 25 minute point, Ortelli went wide at Turn 13 and Sean shot past into the top six. Pitting at the end of lap 16 to hand the car over to Dolby, when the order settled the Briton held seventh – as light rain started to fall.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t become anything significant and Dolby broke back into the top six with pace second only to the race leading Ferrari at that point. Circulating a second per lap faster than Sergio Jimenez ahead, Dolby rocketed up behind the BMW and really started to turn the screw.

On lap 26, after piling on significant pressure, Dolby produced a superbly bold pass to take fifth with the sister BMW his next target. Running a second faster than Valdeno Brito, Dolby sized-up a repeat of what he managed on Jimenez and into the final 10 minutes there was nothing to separate them.

Trying absolutely everything lap after lap, on the penultimate tour he managed to get ahead with a brave move around the outside but contact from the BMW put him wide at the next corner and he slipped back to fifth. Glued to Brito into the final lap, Dolby again tried every trick in the book but had to settle for fifth at the flag just 0.3 seconds shy. Once again, he ended the race with fastest lap.

There is less than a week to wait until the finale of the Blancpain Sprint Series, round seven, which will take place at Zandvoort in The Netherlands next Saturday and Sunday, 10th/11th October.

Provisional 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series Driver Standings:
10th Sean Walkinshaw/Craig Dolby, 30pts