Six-time Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy will fulfil a lifelong dream by competing in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in June.
The 40-year-old Scot, Britain’s most successful Olympian after retiring following two gold medals in the velodrome at London 2012, will compete in the prestigious race, which was first run in 1923 and takes place overnight from 18 to 19 June. Hoy will drive a Nissan-powered Ligier JS P2 chassis at Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe, in the second tier of racing, with two team-mates.
Hoy, who first raced with Nissan in 2014 after his retirement from cycling, said: “I remember getting a Scalextric track when I was five or six. One of the cars had headlights on it.
“I remember asking my dad why and he said ‘that’s for the Le Mans 24 Hour race – they race through the night’.
“I didn’t do this to replace my cycling, but in many ways I get to carry on some of the really enjoyable parts of my cycling career into motor sport.
“It’s exactly the same feeling you have when you’re about to race, doesn’t matter whether it’s on a bike, in a car or even when I was younger, racing BMXs. There’s still that excitement, the nervousness, the adrenaline.
“I never thought I’d feel that again once I retired from cycling – I thought that was the end of that part of my life.”
Comparisons will be made with Victoria Pendleton’s “Switching Saddles” project, when the two-time Olympic cycling champion took up horse racing and competed at Cheltenham.
Eight former winter Olympians have raced at Le Mans, but the only other athlete to have an Olympic gold and compete is French skier Henri Oreiller, who won the men’s downhill and combined at the 1948 Games and started the race in 1962.
Hoy has long enjoyed motor sport and Great Britain Olympic team sponsor Nissan facilitated his passion. He raced in the British GT Championship in 2014 after going through the manufacturer’s intensive driver development programme.
He secured a podium place at Spa in his debut season and took part in the European Le Mans Series in 2015 in the new Nissan-powered LM P3 prototype class. His team won the title, earning a place at Le Mans, where his team-mates will be Frenchman Andrea Pizzitola and Briton Michael Munemann.
“I never thought I’d be on the podium hearing the national anthem again – I thought those days were over,” Hoy said after that success.
Hoy knew it would be a difficult task to reach his stated aim of a place at Le Mans, but now it is little more than two months away and he will race at Silverstone in April and Imola, Italy in May to hone preparations. The 11-time world champion added: “I wasn’t really surprised at how hard it was. It’s like someone saying ‘if you can ride a bike, you can win an Olympic gold medal’.
“As soon as you step on a track, even go-karting, you get a feel for the skill involved.”
He is no longer a novice, but is yet to consider himself to be a racing driver. He added: “I wouldn’t necessary say ‘hi, I’m Chris, I’m a racing driver’. But on my Twitter profile I now have ‘race cars’ at the end of the little list of things. I changed that in the last week.”
Hoy, who went to last year’s race as a spectator and did some testing, does not have a target in mind for the race and is yet to consider his future in motor sport. He added: “I’m not thinking beyond Le Mans. It’s only a matter of weeks away now. I’m not even thinking beyond the start line, I’m just thinking about getting to the start of the race and we’ll deal with it from there.”