CYCLING legend Sir Chris Hoy declared himself delighted with his performance yesterday as he began his touring car career with a highly respectable Easter Monday showing at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
Having swapped the velodrome for the racing track, the six-time Olympic gold medal-winner made his debut in a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 at the British GT season-opener.
As a pro-am event, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship requires the non-professional driver to qualify for and take the start of the first of two one-hour races. Hoy qualified in a very credible 14th place on a grid of over 30 cars.
The Scot made a storming start to the first race and was sitting 11th by the end of the first lap, holding off a strong challenge before pitting from ninth place to hand over to Alex Buncombe.
Unfortunately the safety car came out at that point and split the race in two. Buncombe held ninth place but was a lap behind the leaders. He fought hard during the closing laps and crossed the line in ninth place at the chequered flag.
Hoy said afterwards: “There were a few exciting moments, especially when I got a touch from another car but he went off on to the grass. My rear view mirror was full of Ferrari for most of my run but I just focused on what I was doing and made sure I did the simple things correctly. It was brilliant fun.”
Buncombe was at the wheel for the start of race two and had a strong and relatively uneventful run to 13th place before it was Hoy’s turn to take the wheel again.
“I had a problem pulling away from the pits,” said Hoy. “I lost a few seconds there and when I got on to the track I got forced onto the dirty stuff at Cascades and lost a few more seconds. The safety car came out during my run and I got caught up behind two GT4 cars who didn’t seem interested in keeping up with the pack so that was frustrating.”
When the safety car pitted with just six minutes to go, Hoy charged past three cars on the run to the flag.
He added: “We started 14th and finished 14th. It’s been a privilege to be here and these two races have confirmed just how much I enjoy this.
“I’d like to thank everyone who came out to support us and to pay tribute to my awesome team-mate.”
Buncombe said: “Although the end results don’t say much we’re pleased with how things went.
“This isn’t a track that suits the GT-R but we got the best out of it and we’ll have our turn in future races. I was really pleased with the job Chris did. He did even better than I expected.”
It was also a day to savour for several other Scots.
Ross Wylie won the opening round at Oulton Park. Sharing his Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage with Jake Giddings, the 22-year-old qualified the car on pole position. Competing in the championship for the first time, Wylie was able to maintain his lead before handing the car over to Giddings.
The 19-year-old from Norfolk was able to hold on to the lead and the duo took the chequered flag to win the race ahead of the Lotus Evora GT4 of the fast-charging Gavan Kershaw.
“I don’t think it comes much better than that, qualifying on pole and then leading from start to finish,” Wylie said.
“But it wasn’t easy. Rick Parfitt Jnr kept me on my toes. It certainly took the pressure off when he stopped.
“The safety car worked perfectly for us and Jake brought the car home fantastically. Hopefully we can now keep the momentum going through the rest of the season.”
Wylie and Giddings, though, had to content themselves with fourth place in the day’s second race – and while the Beechdeen Aston Martin Vantage of defending champs, Kirkcaldy’s Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard, finished third in both races, there were celebrations in the Ecurie Ecosse garage.
After being forced to retire from the opening race — having started from pole position — when the team’s BMW Z4 suffered a cracked gearbox casing, the Edinburgh-based crew stormed to overall victory in the day’s final race. The car, driven by Alexander Sims and Marco Attard, finished just 0.456secs ahead of the Porsche GT3 R driven by Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen.