After you’ve won an Olympic gold medal, where do you go from there? Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy has actually won quite a few gold medals. With a total of six gold and one silver, he’s Britain’s most successful Olympic athlete. Now he’s trading two wheels for four.
Hoy will race this weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Nissan-powered Ligier LMP2-class prototype, becoming the first Summer Olympic medalist to compete in the legendary French endurance race. After he retired from cycling, Hoy decided to pursue his hobby of racing, and hooked up with Nissan. The Japanese carmaker saw an opportunity to channel Hoy’s enthusiasm for motor sport, and presumably get some nice publicity for its race program.
While his celebrity status certainly helped Hoy gets to Le Mans more quickly than other aspiring racers, he’s not exactly a novice. Under Nissan’s aegis, he raced a GT-R GT3 in the British GT Championship in 2014, earning a podium. Last year, he graduated to the European Le Mans Series and a Nissan-powered Ginetta LMP3-class prototype. He and co-driver Charlie Robertson earned three wins, enough to clinch the LMP3 driver’s title.
At Le Mans, Hoy will drive the more powerful Ligier-Nissan LMP2 prototype, which boasts a 4.5-liter V8 that produces 450 horsepower. LMP2 cars are a step down from the LMP1-H hybrids from Audi, Porsche, and Toyota that compete for the overall win, but they’re the fastest cars that non-professional drivers can race in. The majority of the LMP2 field will also be using Nissan engines, making for a pretty level playing field in terms of machinery.
Most people associate Nissan with the black eye that was the GT-R LM NISMO, the radical-but-flawed hybrid race car the company thought would bring it a Le Mans win last year. The GT-R LM NISMO debuted in a Super Bowl commercial, raced once at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, and did so badly that Nissan decided to simply scrap the program.
Ironically, Nissan has had major success in the lower-profile LMP2 class. While the GT-R LM NISMO faltered, a Nissan-powered LMP2 car actually won its class last year. Nissan also dominated the LMP2 class in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series last year. From the GT-R LM NISMO and other wacky cars like the ZEOD RC hybrid, to signing up Hoy, it’s clear Nissan likes Le Mans publicity stunts. This latest one might actually pay off.