Full speed ahead

TV Times - - Interview - Giles Richards

Olympic leg­end sir Chris Hoy on fol­low­ing his dream to Le Mans

Win­ning one of his two golds at Lon­don 2012

DOC­U­MEN­TARY our years on from be­com­ing Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful Olympian – a record since equalled by his fel­low track cy­clist Ja­son Kenny – Sir Chris Hoy is re­call­ing how a child­hood fan­tasy turned from pipedream to re­al­ity, com­pet­ing in the world’s great­est sports car race, the Le Mans 24 Hours.

As we’ll see this week in a BBC2 doc­u­men­tary, Chris’s drive in the clas­sic en­durance race this June was the cul­mi­na­tion of a lifelong pas­sion that had to be sec­ondary to a mag­nif­i­cent cycling ca­reer.

He was seven years old when he first be­came aware of the race, via a Scalex­tric set. ‘I had a sil­ver and gold Porsche 911, on which the lights came on,’ he says.

‘I re­mem­ber ask­ing my dad, “Why do these cars have lights and other cars don’t?” He ex­plained that it was to race through the night for 24 hours non-stop at Le Mans.

F‘I re­mem­ber be­ing amazed by it but never think­ing I’d get the chance to do it my­self. It must have sparked some­thing, though.’

Chris – part of the excellent

BBC com­men­tary team at the Rio Olympics – was in­spired to be­come a cy­clist by the film ET but, while it would go on to con­sume his time with such suc­cess, that spark for mo­tor rac­ing never left him.

He be­gan driv­ing on the track in 2008 and con­tin­ued to do so in cycling’s close sea­son to re­lax.

When mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary about his hero, the late rally driver Colin Mcrae, he had the chance to take it fur­ther, rac­ing in a Rad­i­cal sports car. He scored a podium place in Septem­ber 2013.

Nis­san were pay­ing at­ten­tion to his progress, and the com­pany in­vited Chris to par­tic­i­pate in their driver de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.

‘By the end of the first sea­son when Nis­san came on board it stepped up a gear,’ he says. ‘All the sup­port and op­por­tu­nity started and then Le Mans be­came the pipedream, the thing to aim for, the end of the rain­bow.’

Af­ter a podium place in the Bri­tish GT cham­pi­onship in 2014 and win­ning a ti­tle at the European Le Mans se­ries with team­mate Char­lie Robert­son the fol­low­ing year, he stepped up to the 24 Hour, the ultimate en­durance test inau­gu­rated in 1923.

Rac­ing with Bri­tain’s Michael Mune­mann and France’s An­drea Pizzi­tola, he fin­ished a cred­itable 12th in his class and 17th out of 60 over­all, en­thus­ing: ‘It’s been the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’

Con­cen­trat­ing on the de­tail is part of how Chris, 40, ra­tio­nalises the dan­gers in­volved.

‘If you con­sid­ered the risks of ev­ery­thing in life you wouldn’t leave your house,’ he says. ‘But

I’m a fa­ther and a hus­band.

[Chris is mar­ried to lawyer Sarra, and they have a son, Cal­lum, who turns two this month.]

‘I don’t do these things for the hell of it. At the same time you ac­cept the risks and ac­knowl­edge that there is a risk, that there could be a big crash or worse.

‘But I know I’m not go­ing to put my­self in jeop­ardy by be­ing reck­less or be­ing un­der­pre­pared. I would only ever do this if

I was pre­pared and ready for it – which I am.’

is pre­viewed on pages 42-43

Sir Chris Hoy: 200mph at Le Mans SUN­DAY / BBC2 /9.00Pm

Chris proudly poses with hel­met and team kit at this year’s Nis­san launch

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