Hoy bags first British GT podium 13 | 07 | 2014

    SIR CHRIS HOY delivered the first podium of his fledgling motorsport career, and chose the daunting Spa track to do so. The six-time Olympic gold medallist was contesting the eighth round of the British GT Championship.

    Partnered by Nissan team-mate, 2012 GT Academy Europe winner, Wolfgang Reip, he took a second place podium finish at one of the world’s toughest race tracks.

    Spa-Francorchamps is, of course, the home of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix and is high on the list of favourite tracks for racing drivers the world over. Renowned for its rollercoaster-like layout it boasts some of the best corners in motorsport, including the daunting Eau Rouge and the fearsome Blanchimont. To get a top result at Spa is an incredible achievement for any driver, let alone one who only saw the circuit for the first time on Thursday.

    “I was blown away by the circuit,” Hoy (pictured with team-mate 'Wolfie') said. “Seeing Eau Rouge in the flesh is a bit like seeing velodrome banking for the first time. It’s a lot steeper that it looks on TV.

    "The first time you drive towards Eau Rouge with your foot flat to the floor is a real eye-opener. It isn’t just Eau Rouge though; there are some amazing high-speed corners and it really suits the GT-R.”

    The racing actually got underway at a damp and misty Spa. Choosing to err on the side of caution, the team started Chris’ Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 on wet tyres but ultimately the track was just dry enough for slicks. It was a tough initiation for Chris but between him and Wolfie they kept the GT-R on the black stuff and finished the race in 14th place. Everything would hang on the result of race two.

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    Wolfgang Reip was on starting duty for the second of the day's two races and after a fantastic performance in qualifying he started from third on the grid.

    “Bob (Neville – team boss) told me to push like hell at the start, so that’s exactly what I did,” Wolfie explained. “I took second place going into the first corner and then I just had Alexander Sim’s BMW in front of me.

    "I got a better exit out of Eau Rouge so the added momentum helped me to pass him on the straight before Les Coombes. He stayed on my bumper after that but we pulled out a 16 second gap to third place during that run.”

    The Safety Car came out after the pit window opened, bunching the field up again and taking away that hard-earned buffer, but once the driver change was complete it was Hoy who led the race. When the race went green, Hoy held on to first place.  Then another Safety Car came out, giving him a little breathing space before what turned out to be a four-lap dash to the chequered flag. As the race went green, Hoy had the entire field on his tail.

    “Those final laps were pretty tense,” the Edinburgh racer said. “Being in second was a new experience for me; you don't think about what's behind you and the less excited you are, the easier it becomes. I kept it simple, as I'm still learning and it's not second nature to me yet.

    “What an incredible place for us to get our first podium,” he continued. “It was a real sense of relief for me. Wolfie did an amazing job, the team were all great and we have had some bad luck this year so this was our big chance.”

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    Jim McGill


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