July 14, 2014
Chris Hoy / Wolfgang Reip
#80 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3
Saturday 12 July 2014 (SPA, BELGIUM) - Sir Chris Hoy put his off-track excursion at Goodwood far behind him today with an outstanding performance at Spa in round five of the 2014 British GT Championship. Along with his Nissan teammate, 2012 GT Academy Europe winner, Wolfgang Reip, he took a second place podium finish at one of the world's toughest racetracks.
Spa-Francorchamps, the home of the Belgian Grand Prix, is high on the list of favorite tracks for racing drivers the world over. Renowned for it's 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,” 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.”
Today's racing actually got underway first thing this morning 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 tires 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.
Wolfgang Reip was on starting duty for the second of today'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,” said Wolfie. “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 Combes. 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, Chris held onto 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 checkered flag. As the race went green, Chris had the entire field on his tail.
“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,” 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.”
This weekend's racing at Spa has also provided Wolfie with a fantastic warm up to the Spa 24 Hours, which takes place in just two weeks' time.
“This was my second ever race meeting at Spa and I got a podium finish,” said Wolfie. “The first time I came here was for the Spa 24 Hours last year and I got a podium then too. Let's hope I can make it three out of three at the end of the month!”
“Chris showed us all how to go from zero to hero today,” said Darren Cox, NISMO's Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales. “After his slip up at Goodwood - which happened at a corner that has caught out vastly [more] experienced drivers before - the doubters got all excited, but he has proved everyone wrong today. He still has a long way to go but to show up at Spa for the first time and perform like that is exactly what we expect from our drivers. It goes without saying that Wolfie did a brilliant job, just as we would expect a GT Academy winner to do.”