Chris Hoy scored his first Avon Tyres British GT Championship podium, taking second place in the second of the two series’ races at Spa-Francorchamps.
Hoy once again shared driving duties in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3 NISMO with 2012 GT Academy Europe Wolfgang Reip, the Belgian on home soil on the British series’ one round on continental Europe this season.
While Reip was part of the Nissan line-up for the Total Spa 24 Hours last season the British GT weekend was Hoy’s first encounter with the circuit nestled in the Ardennes Forest. “I was blown away by the circuit,” said Hoy. “Seeing Eau Rouge in the flesh, so to speak, 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 Saturday morning brought a difficult first race when the driver pairing could only finish in 14th, the unpredictable Spa weather having got the better of the team when they selected to start on wet tyres for a race that would ultimately end on a dry track.
However, with Reip starting from third for the afternoon race the team were soon chasing race victory. The Belgian stole up the inside at La Source at the start of the race, taking second place before passing pole winner Alexander Sims down the Kemmel Straight. Two safety car periods followed limiting Reip’s ability to pull out a gap over the chasing pack. The second full course yellow fell inside the mid race pit window when Reip pitted to hand over to Hoy, the Scot picking up where Reip had left off in the lead.
“Bob [Neville, team boss] told me to push like hell at the start so that’s exactly what I did,” said Reip of his stint. “I took second place going into the first corner and then I just had Sims’ 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 pulled in with seven minutes of the race remaining, but the greater experience of championship leader Marco Attard proved too much for Hoy as he was passed on the first lap back to racing. Happily, however, he remained ahead of group of drivers fighting over third place in the closing laps.
“Those final laps were pretty tense,” said Hoy. “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. 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.”