Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Six-time Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy will make his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut at the World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona next week, filiming as part of a documentary with MotorTrend.

To get up to speed ready for his first rallycross start, Hoy drove Xite Racing’s Ford Fiesta Supercar for the very first time at Pembrey Circuit in Wales, coached by World RX driver Oliver Bennett.

Q. What were your first impressions of driving the Fiesta Supercar in your test?

Hoy: “It takes your breath away. I basically started off with a launch – I didn’t even get chance to drive around and get a feel for it, we just went to the line, foot flat on the floor, hand on the handbrake then release the handbrake, release the clutch and off you go. In a machine that can do 0-60 in less than two seconds, it just absolutely takes your breath away. Its violent, loud, angry and its awesome – just like nothing else I’ve ever driven before.

It’s a huge amount of fun, quite intimidating initially, but then you quickly realise that the more aggressive you are with the car and the more you grab it by the scruff of the neck, the more it responds. Today it has definitely started to come, my lap times are getting quicker and I’m having more fun with it, being able to place the car where I want. It’s everything I thought it was going to be and more!”

Q. How does the World RX Supercar compare to other high performance cars you’ve driven?

Hoy: “I think the biggest difference is how aggressive you have to be on the throttle, how on-off you are with the throttle and how you really do have to kind of wrestle the car. It’s not about placing and being smooth, its about getting the car rotated as quickly as possible and getting back on the throttle as quickly as possible.

There are principles that are the same as in other cars obviously, but the biggest change I think is the sliding around, going from the tarmac onto the gravel and learning about how early you have to make the steering inputs. Once you get the balance right and you get that momentum right, the car can just shift from left to right. It’s hard to explain just how much fun it is to drive it but hopefully my smile shows that!

It’s quite an intimidating car to get into and you think wow, I’ve only got basically half a day to get used to it then I’m going be racing against the best guys in the world and I don’t want make an idiot of myself. I want to do the opportunity justice so I’m trying to get as much information as much as I can from Ollie [Bennett] and the team so that when I get to the start line I can be as well prepared as possible and do the best job I can.”

Q. How much gravel driving experience do you have?

Hoy: “Very, very little. I did a documentary about Colin McRae’s career back in 2013 and I got to drive his WRC car that he won the 1995 world title in. I got to drive maybe a handful of his cars, but really that was it. I’ve done a little bit out in Sweden with the ice driving guys out there, but really this is the first time I’ve really had a chance in a car with 600 horsepower to experience what its like. In the old days it was all about steering lock, but really you do one steering input then it’s the throttle here that guides you through the corners and then you lift off, the car will rotate, back on the throttle again and its really about adjusting your angle with your right foot.” 

Q. Most of your racing has been in endurance or circuit racing events. How will you adapt your approach for the short sharp nature of rallycross?

Hoy: “Yeah it’s a complete opposite, I’m actually really excited to do it because its closer to what I used to do many years ago. You’re up against five other guys on the track, the race lasts a couple of minutes and you can’t make mistakes, you’ve only got one chance so I’m relishing the thought of being on the start line with the lights coming on with the other guys around and the sound of the engines and actually just having a sprint essentially, four fast laps with maximum concentration, no time to be thinking about anything else.”

Q. Now you’ve tested the car, looking ahead to Barcelona, what are your goals and ambitions going to that event?

Hoy: “I just want do the opportunity justice, I want to show people that I’m not taking this lightly and that I really appreciate the opportunity because I know that every single fan out there watching will want to be in my seat and think ‘oh he’s a lucky so-and-so.’ I don’t want to drive around miles off the pace and I also don’t want damage the car or do something stupid. I don’t want to impact on the other drivers’ championships so I want do the best job I can, make the most of the opportunity and have as much fun as I can and just soak up the experience.

Rallycross is one of these forms of motorsport that I’ve always wanted to try and most racing drivers that you speak to, no matter what they do, Formula 1, Le Mans, GT racing, whatever, if you say to them what do you fancy having a crack at, they always say rallycross so here I am, getting this opportunity, I want to make the most of it.”

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