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Apr 10, 2014 - 06:32 PM
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Sir Chris Hoy Q&A
Posted by: newsla on Apr 10, 2014 - 06:31 PM
Sports Cars
Sir Chris Hoy Q&A


Tell us about this new adventure and how it came about?
As part of Nissan’s partnership with the British Olympic Association and their sponsorship of the 2016 Games in Rio, I came on board as an Ambassador. Then as a spin off project the opportunity to race in the Nissan GT-R came about and I didn’t need to be asked twice. I raced my first season last year at a novice level so to get involved with Nissan and do the British GT Championship is a massive step up for me but it’s a lovely, friendly bunch of people, an amazing car and amazing equipment. I’m racing with Alex Buncombe, a very experienced driver who is going to fast track me to improve my technique and my skills. It’s a very exciting project but quite scary too. It’s a big challenge but I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to get stuck in.

 

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You have a Nissan GT-R as your ‘day car’, what are the main differences between that and the NISMO GT3 version?
I’ve got a GT-R road car as my daily driver and it’s an astonishing car. It’s like nothing else I’ve driven on the road. This is my first time in the GT-R GT3 race car and it’s equally impressive but in different ways. For a 500-odd horsepower car, it’s funny to highlight it but it was the brakes that were the biggest surprise to me, just how quickly you can stop. I was absolutely flying down the Wellington Straight, the main straight here, but when you jump on the anchors it feels like your eyeballs are hanging out. It’s absolutely incredible. It looks intimidating from the outside but it’s actually really intuitive and I felt like I had done quite a few laps even after just one or two. It’s by far the best race car I’ve ever driven, by a long shot.

Is this just a bit of fun, or do you have ambitions beyond this first year of racing?
It might sound ridiculous right now but my ambition in motorsport is to compete at Le Mans in the 24-hour race. Who knows if that’s even remotely possible but that’s my dream. I’m in the right place to do it. There are fantastic people here who have the right experience so if I can do what they tell me to do, listen to them and develop, then it may not be a ridiculous dream. At the moment though I’m just thinking about British GT and we’ll see how this season goes.

Why do you want to race at Le Mans? Is that a long-held dream?
The first time I became aware of Le Mans was when I had a Scalextric set when I was a wee boy. It had some Le Mans cars with lights that glowed, obviously for racing through the night. I didn’t know why some of the race cars had lights that came on and some didn’t then my Dad explained it was for the Le Mans 24 Hours as they race day and night for the whole 24 hours. I remember thinking then that sounds pretty special but never dreamt I would get the opportunity to start a motor racing career. It’s still a long way off but who knows!

What do you think are the qualities you have from your previous career that can help you in motor sport? Is there any crossover at all?
I think on the surface racing cars and racing bikes seem like polar opposites. They’re quite different sports with quite different techniques but when you start to break it down there are many things I’m able to bring from my cycling experience across into the car. The biggest thing is listening to your coach, listening to the advice you’re given, trying to apply techniques and skills that you’re being instructed to do. That’s been the biggest thing so far, just listening to Alex and doing what he advises me to do. Listen to the mechanics, listen to Bob (Neville – team boss) and try to soak up as much information as I can. You don’t get as much time to practice in a car as you do on a bike. Sometimes I was training six or seven hours a day on the bike, six days a week, whereas you only get limited time in the car. I need to take the information in, process it and use it as quickly as I can.

Do you think fitness levels are important and can give you an edge?
I think in terms of physical demands I won’t know until I’ve raced for one hour, two hours, three hours, 24 hours. I’ve raced very short races in the past, for 20 minutes or 40 minutes. Those races weren’t too demanding in terms of physical output but you were exhausted at the end because of the concentration. You’re sweating, you’re heart rate goes up but that’s because (a) I’m terrified and (b) I’m not relaxing. You’re supposed to relax on the straights, give yourself a chance to loosen your grip, as the corners can be quite high g-forces so you’re trying to recover between the corners. So far I’m not thinking about the physical side of it as there are so many other things going on but obviously you do have to be very fit to be a racing driver at the highest level. These guys train incredibly hard. A lot of them are into their cycling as well, which is fun because I’ll be able to go out training with them on their bikes in the future.

I used to train for events that lasted anything from 9 seconds to a minute so it was all very explosive. Short powerful bursts of energy. This is about concentrating for extended periods of time so it’s a very different physical challenge for me. I did do a fair bit of endurance training on the bike as well so hopefully it’ll be an interesting physical challenge too.

What is the one thing you are most looking forward to this year?
For me the highlight of the season will just be to get onto the grid at Oulton Park. It’s the first track I raced on about four or five years ago so it’s the one track that I’m relatively familiar with. To actually be there in an amazing car in an amazing series, against some top drivers, will be a real highlight. What happens beyond that, I don’t know. I’m a competitor; I want to win all the time, no matter what I do, whether I’m racing bikes, racing cars, playing Monopoly, I’m always trying to win. I’m realistic with my ambitions. I’m realistic about the fact I’m very much a novice so I’m not expecting to win immediately but in every race I enter I’m trying to be the best that I can be and long term that will be to try to win.

What does your family think about this new challenge?
Obviously motorsport has its risks. You are aware of that and you have to respect that at all times, in the same way you do when you’re out driving your car on the road. There are risks all around us, all the time. I think it’s about managing that and not taking excessive risks, but it’s part of the excitement when you’re going fast. You’re trying to control a race car. My wife actually finds it less stressful to watch me racing cars than when she watched me racing bikes. When I was racing in the Olympic Games there was so much resting on the result – it was the gold medal or nothing, years of hard work, so much pressure and expectation – but there’s less expectation in the car. Although that may change as the season goes on.

Will there ever be a time when Sir Chris Hoy is content to stop competing, or is it something that is simply in the blood?
I’ve just turned 38 but when I get in a race car I have the same feelings, the same competitive instincts that I had when I was a kid racing a BMX, then when I got into track racing on the bike, the same instincts are there. Look at the gentlemen racers who are still racing in their 60s. They still want to win just as badly. They might not be as quick as they were when they were 20 or 30 but I think that instinct will always be with me, whether or not I pursue competition until I’m that old. Who knows? At the moment I’m just as driven and just as excited to be competing. It’s the start of a new journey for me. I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder, it’s a steep learning curve so every time you come down you see improvement and that’s a nice feeling to have when you’re at the start of something new.

Is it really possible to just switch from one sport to another?
I’m in at the deep end of the driver development spectrum. I’ve missed out the normal route that even the GT Academy drivers come through. It’s quite intimidating when you come in because you realise this is a serious piece of kit that you’re racing in. You’re well aware of your limitations but the key thing is that I’m aware of the privilege to be in this position. There are guys all over the world who are fighting to get into GT Academy to get this opportunity so I don’t want to waste it. I’ll treat it with respect, give it my all and really take it seriously because these guys here are working to get the car on the track for me and Alex. I want to do my best and do these guys justice.

I can’t wait to get out there and go racing, competing against other drivers. It’s one thing taking the GT-R out on an empty track but the adrenalin and atmosphere of a race will be amazing. I really can’t wait.

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