We told you back at the start of the month about the intentions of Sir Chris Hoy to get himself into the Le Mans 24 Hour in 2016, and he has started well inside a car with a great performance on his debut at the British GT season-opening weekend. Driving a Nissan GT-R NISMO, the six-time Olympic gold medal-winner drove for the Nissan team for the first time in front of a big Easter Monday crowd at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
Under the rules of the British GT racing in the Pro-Am races in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, the non-professional driver has to qualify for and also start off the first of the weekend’s two one-hour races. When it came to Chris Hoy, he qualified in 14th place in the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (Race Number 80) on a grid of over 30 cars.
From the off, Chris Hoy sped away and made up three places to 11th place by the end of the first lap, keeping his place there and even improving it – holding off a strong challenge from a Ferrari – to 9th place where he handed over the GT-R to professional Alex Buncombe.
Buncombe kept up the pace, but there was an incident (not involving Nissan) and the safety car had to come out, keeping Alex in 9th place, a lap behind the leaders – and it was there he finished as he took the chequered flag.
After the first race, Sir Chris Hoy was as effusive as ever on his racing debut: “That was brilliant fun! There were a few exciting moments, especially when I got a touch from another car but he went off onto 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’s a beautiful sunny day here, there’s a great crowd and I feel like I’m a racing driver!”
In the second race, roles are reversed with Alex Buncombe kicking it all off, but a strong run only led to the GT-R pitting in 13th place when Chris took the wheel.
Commentary now from Sir Chris Hoy. “I had a problem pulling away from the pits,” said Hoy. “I lost a few seconds there and when I got onto 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.”
With just 6 minutes to go, the Safety car pitted and Chris went on a bit of a charge, shooting past three cars in a matter of seconds before securing 13th place as he crossed the line.
“I’ve had an absolutely brilliant weekend,” concluded Hoy. “It’s a privilege to be here. I really enjoyed it and now I can’t wait for Rockingham. Those two races have just confirmed how much I enjoy this. I’ve definitely got the bug!”
Alex Buncombe was also a man with a smile on his face. “Although the end results don’t say much we’re pleased with how the weekend 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 today. He did even better than I expected so I’m really chuffed with his performance.”