Going for gold in this year’s St Mary’s Trophy is someone now firmly established as a Goodwood favourite, Britain’s greatest Olympian Sir Chris Hoy.
The racer who swapped two wheels for four is back in the Mini Cooper S he co-drove in the St Mary’s two years ago. Engine trouble and then an unintended inversion by the car’s owner meant Sir Chris’s first Revival didn’t go exactly according to plan…
The car has been rebuilt in Ecurie Ecosse colours by Mondo Sport for Ben Shuckburgh, boss of famed classic car specialists CKL Engineering, and Ben will be on driving duty in the car in part two of the race on the Sunday. CKL had booked the Motor Circuit for a test day last week and this was the first chance for the new car to show what it could do.
‘It’s going well but I am building up nice and steady,’ says Sir Chris, who, in his new sport of motor racing has just been crowned the inaugural LMP3 Champion in the European Le Mans Series in his Ginetta-Nissan, with one round still to go.
‘I can’t think of anything more different from an LMP car than a Mini Cooper but it’s great fun. I just did a 1min 38.3sec in the Mini and reckon I should be able to get that down to a :35 or :36. From memory I didn’t go any quicker than 1:38 two years ago, so it’s looking good. I am certainly pleased to be back behind the wheel – last year I was here as a spectator.’
What’s it going to be like up against a host of very determined touring car legends in the St Mary’s this year?
‘Hopefully I will avoid all the chaos. You just have to drive your own race. You don’t go out there looking for trouble, but this is still full commitment motor racing, not just beautiful old cars being driven around at a sedate pace.
‘In my race two years ago I started near the back of the grid and managed to pick my way through the field – something the Mini is great at, diving up the inside of the Galaxies and such like under brakes. Then the engine failed with five minutes to go.’
Would Sir Chris like it wet or dry for the race?
‘You don’t want to race in the wet, but if it favours your car it’s a win-win… If it is wet the Cooper Ss [there are seven of them down to take part] should be up the front.’
It has been a busy year for Sir Chris. As well as driving at the Festival of Speed and Members’ Meeting, he (with co-driver Charlie Robertson) scored his first international race victory in the opening round of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone, and since then has dominated the LMP3 class.
‘I thought it was a pipe dream but it is now becoming more and more possible. With Nissan and Ginetta we make a great partnership so fingers crossed we are all on the right trajectory to get to Le Mans in 2016.’
He did actually have a go at Le Mans this year, a 10-lap test in the Ginetta. ‘It was the first time I had ever driven at Le Mans and it was wet! I had a mixture of terror and excitement and amazement. I had to keep pinching myself that I was actually there, driving through all those iconic corners. It’s a magical place.’
Photography by Ben Miles