Four not two: Sir Chris Hoy will be competing in the British GT championship with Nissan
Knight rider Sir Chris Hoy will swap his top speed of 50mph on a bike for 190mph in a Nissan at Oulton Park this weekend.
Team GB’s greatest Olympian launches his bid for a place at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 2016 in the first round of the British GT championship at the Cheshire circuit.
At 38, Hoy admits his conversion from king of Britain’s blazing saddles to boilersuit and petrolhead is partly down to an unfulfilled obsession with speed.
He intended to extend his cycling career to include this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where the velodrome is named after him.
But when he realised those tree-trunk thighs were not going to sustain his dreams, Hoy was left with nowhere to channel his competitive instincts.
His own-brand bike business is thriving, but he admitted: “That is my passion project – I get to design the bikes, test them and get my teeth into something that could go on for years.
“It’s my day job, but there is no competitive element in that, and maybe it will take a long time for the competitor in me to dwindle.
“By getting involved with Nissan I’ve got the perfect balance between the fast and furious adrenalin rush and the more stable, longer-term business project.
“It’s a bit different to cycling – for 25 years I was riding machines with no brakes – but the key thing is to go in there and block out all the distractions, and it’s nice to embark on a new chapter in my life.
“I’m under no illusions that I will be as successful in a car as I was on a bike, but I didn’t expect to become an Olympic champion when I started cycling. I just wanted to see how far I could go.
“Normally, at this stage, you’d be looking back thinking, ‘Yeah, that was nice, but it’s all gone now’. There’s always an element of sadness when you finish something that was such a big part of your life, but now my ultimate ambition is to race at Le Mans. That’s the dream, but I’ve got to take it one step at a time.”
Hoy has only done one day of testing at Silverstone in his Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, amounting to 70 minutes on the track, and much of his preparation for this weekend has been on a simulator.
But he has been a fast learner since he met Nissan officials at last year’s Festival of Speed at Goodwood – and he has not been short of advice.
He said: “Sir Jackie Stewart has been really helpful – he put me in touch with Andy Ruhan on the Lotus F1 board and I drove with Andy last year in the Revival series.
“At the Melbourne Grand Prix last year, when I was doing the celebrity race in a Mazda, I went off at the second corner and I got the message, ‘Sir Jackie wants to see you’ and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, I’m being called into the headmaster’s office’.
“I was amazed that Sir Jackie watched me racing, and he advised me, ‘Try this, do that, let me know how you get on.’
“In the next race, I started from the back of the grid in 22nd and I got up to fifth, then I started in fifth and finished in second, and he would encourage me by saying, ‘There you go, that’s more like it.’ That felt good.”
Before a generation of boy racers leave their bikes in the garage and leap behind the wheel, six Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles have not given the Real McHoy a dangerous sense of entitlement on the road.
Once knocked off his bike by a police van near the national velodrome in Manchester, Hoy added pointedly: “I’m very aware of road safety – you can’t drive fast on the roads. Of course it’s cool to have nice cars, but the track is really the place to test them.”
Olympic hero: Hoy’s record
2000 – Team Sprint SILVER (with Craig MacLean and Jason Queally)
2004 – 1km Track Time Trial GOLD
2008 – Team Sprint GOLD (with Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff); Keirin GOLD; Sprint GOLD
2012 – Team Sprint GOLD (with Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes); Keirin GOLD