Sir Chris Hoy targets glory on four wheels

Cycling legend Chris Hoy joined the Nissan driver development programme. Picture: Getty
Cycling legend Chris Hoy joined the Nissan driver development programme. Picture: Getty
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THE clever people at the BBC who organised that Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, should receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Personality of the Year Award ceremony in his homeland tomorrow night might ponder on this fact – the Scot isn’t finished with sport yet.

Indeed, if all goes according to plan, by the end of the year after next, Hoy could be as famous for his feats on four wheels as he is on two, especially if he wins his target event – the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hour race.

“I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn to bridge the gap to be competitive at Le Mans,” said Hoy, who, as ever, is carefully plotting his way ahead and working with the best advisors around.

Hoy said: “I have spoken to Paul Di Resta, Allan McNish, David Coulthard, Marino and Dario Franchetti, and Sir Jackie Stewart – pretty much all the Scottish racing drivers. They have all been very helpful and encouraging.”

That he is the greatest ever Scottish cyclist who won six Olympic gold medals is probably why these luminaries of Scottish motorsport took his calls.

With their advice, and the support of the Nissan driver development programme, Hoy hopes to be one of the Nissan co-drivers in the 2016 Le Mans 24 hour race at the famous French venue. It is not a fanciful dream – team manager Bob Neville of the Nissan GT Academy said: “He is completely determined and highly focused.”

Hoy drove a Nissan GT car in his successful first season in the British GT Championship and will now move up to a faster Ginetta-Nissan LM P3 car in 2015, competing in the prestigious European Le Mans championship series of endurance races that take place on Grand Prix circuits such as Silverstone in England and Imola in Italy.

His progress in the GT series was spectacular, going from rookie driver to finishing on the podium in second place in a race at Spa in July. Neville pointed out that Hoy finished every race, which in a first season is “truly remarkable”.

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Neville added: “He can go all the way to Le Mans. The people he was racing against in the GT series this year are regular Le Mans drivers. He has a lot to get through, the car he is in this year will be different, but as regards his potential as a driver – well, he’s got it.”

Hoy said: “The guys at the Nissan GT Academy are experts at bringing complete novice drivers up to a very high level.”

Hoy was indeed a novice: “I had done a couple of track days at Oulton Park which is half-an-hour from home, and I did a couple of track days at Bedford, and it was just something that I loved doing.

“I never thought I would have the opportunity to compete but it was while I was filming a documentary about Colin McCrae, who inspired me to take up motorsport, that I spoke to people who said I should give it a go.

“Initially it was just a couple of track days but I’m quite a competitive person as you might guess, and to combine a hobby for which I have a passion with that competitive instinct is what has made all this take off.”

Hoy’s wife Sarra gave birth to their first child, Callum, in October. He was 11 weeks premature and the tiny tot only arrived at the Hoy home last week.

Sarra has been very supportive of Hoy’s new venture into sport: “I think she finds it a lot less stressful than watching me on the bike.

“There was so much pressure and expectation when I was competing in the Olympic Games, World Championship and Commonwealth Games, so this is a change for her as she knows all I have to do is get the best result I can. It’s not the horrendous situation where, if you don’t win, you’re inconsolable for the next few days.”

There was one incident that possibly worried Sarra, but it all ended happily.

Hoy was competing not in his GT series vehicle but a standard road car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed when his Nissan GTR car left the track and crashed into a mass of hay bales.

“You don’t have much time to think about things,” said Hoy, “but it showed how good the safety of the Nissan GTR is. I hit those hay bales doing about 70mph, and I just jumped out without a scratch, absolutely fine.

“When you are in motorsport and pushing hard, eventually something like that will happen. For my first big ‘off’, it was a memorable one.”

Hoy added: “Every so often I will start daydreaming about Le Mans 2016 and it’s nice to have that as a target, but just no wit’s about focusing on what’s next and how can I improve as a driver all round.”

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