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Despite the obvious allure of racing a Lamborghini Huracán at the highest level, it is quite rare that a driver realises a childhood dream by competing in the Pro-Am class of one of the most competitive one-make GT series in the world.
But for Japanese-British teenager Dougie Bolger, the 2023 season was just that.
New to GT racing at the start of the year, Bolger teamed up with Sri Lankan motorsport icon Dilantha Malagamuwa in the #15 Lamborghini Stuttgart by Target Racing entry, rekindling a relationship which began over a decade prior.
You see, Bolger, Lamborghini and Dilantha go back a long way.
Born in Tokyo to a British father and Japanese mother, Bolger couldn’t help but be a petrolhead. He grew up around cars and quickly worked his way up the local karting ladder.
They also attended local race events in Japan. That’s where he caught the racing bug.
“I started karting because my dad loved cars and he had a Lambo himself; I was into cars as well, started in karts at the age of three, and racing from the age of six,” Bolger begins.
“We didn’t have much knowledge about it all back then, I just drove laps really!
“I had gone to a Super Trofeo event in Japan, as a sort of owner’s thing, which was amazing for me.
“Then we met Dilantha, got to know him and he showed me around the car and let me sit in his Lambo. And we stayed in his garage for the rest of the weekend, got to do all this cool stuff.
“And, although we only met for one weekend, we somehow sort of stayed in touch.”
That initial contact was what gave Bolger his opportunity in Super Trofeo Europe at the start of 2023, his first in GT racing after forging a single seater career in the UK.
For a young driver coming up the racing ranks, Bolger knew that while he had been enjoying success in Japan, moving out of his comfort zone would be necessary if he was to achieve his early ambition of reaching Formula One.
That meant an almost unthinkable move to his father’s home country, the United Kingdom – the bedrock of karting and grassroots motorsport. He moved in with his relatives at the age of 12.
“At that time, with the knowledge we had, the UK was the best place for us to go racing,” Bolger says.
“It was just the right place to be, you had all the connections, everyone was based there.
“I moved there when I was 12, went to boarding school, which was really tough. I tried to have a normal life, when I wasn’t at a racetrack, but it wasn’t easy because I was racing a lot.
“And then on the sporting side, it was tough too because in Japan I was easily one of the fastest, and then when I began racing in the UK, I was near the bottom all the time!
“But I learned a lot, picked things up well over the next five years and progressed to the point where I felt I could move up to cars.”
By this point, Bolger had also been scouted by McLaren’s DNA Driver programme, which had identified him as a strong candidate due to his strength of character and impressive rate of development.
But COVID interrupted Bolger’s first foray into car racing and the young driver quickly sought other alternatives the following year. He made his debut in prototype racing in the UK, achieving rapid success.
It was also where Bolger met Robert Greenwood, the driver he teamed up with in Pro-Am for the penultimate round of this year’s Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe championship. At the same time, a call came in from a familiar old friend, too.
“[Dilantha] got back in touch, like 10 years after we first met, which shows you how important connections are,” Bolger reflects.
“It was unimaginable to be given a chance to race in the same series as I watched him race in all those years back.”
The significance of racing alongside Sri Lanka’s only racing driver cannot be undersold. Ahead of the Super Trofeo Europe campaign, during which he partnered Dilantha for the opening two rounds – at Paul Ricard and Spa-Francorchamps – Bolger travelled to Sri Lanka for a special fundraising season launch.
“He had this huge pre-season festival thing, which he did to fundraise his season,” says Bolger.
“I was on the stage with the biggest rock band in Sri Lanka, the biggest comedian in the country there, and I shook hands with them all but only realised afterwards just who they were, it was insane.
“Every red light we stopped at, there was someone waving at him; I felt kind of stupid just sitting next to him in the car, but it was so impressive and shows what a big personality he is.”
Dilantha may have been the big name attraction before the season, but Bolger has lived up to his junior racing pedigree amidst one of the most competitive Super Trofeo fields in recent memory.
Strong qualifying performances at Paul Ricard and the Nürburgring have helped the youngster gain valuable experience at the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo2. And, while the race results haven’t quite rewarded the obvious promise, Bolger has been satisfied – to a degree – with his debut season in the championship.
“I had no idea what to expect [this season], I had never driven a GT car before, everything was new,” admits Bolger.
“ABS, traction control, the tracks, everything was a learning curve for me. How Pro are the Pros? How Am are the Ams?
“Without realising, I was just focusing on the performance side, and I was like four seconds off the pace in practice, but we kept on working with the team and the in qualifying, we were potentially P8 without the track limits.
“And then before long, the confidence was growing. I wasn’t doing outstandingly well, but I was finding my feet with more testing and getting towards the top 10, which was amazing. Especially in Pro-Am, which has been insanely competitive.”
During a year of learning, Bolger achieved a highest finish of 11th in the Pro category at Valencia, while his best Pro-Am weekend undoubtedly came alongside Greenwood at Vallelunga.
The pair, who had raced together in the Radical Cup in the UK last year, finished eighth in the first race of round five before improving to sixth in the second race.
Bolger then contest the World Finals as a solo driver – his third weekend in the class after Nürburgring and Valencia – finishing 13th overall and 12th in class in the second race.