Recently-crowned FIA LMP3 champions Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson got their first taste of LMP2 power as they joined Greaves Motorsport for the 'prize drive' that came as part of their 2015 success.
Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Hoy joined rising star Robertson to claim the LMP3 crown at their first attempt, but the Scot only made it to Estoril after battling through travel chaos caused by fog in the UK.
Fresh from winning the 2015 LMP2 title just two weeks ago, the Greaves squad gave Hoy his first LMP2 run earlier this week, during which he completed over 40 laps of the former Portuguese Grand Prix venue. Robertson took his turn 24 hours later, before both drivers had their performances assessed by the Greaves engineers with a view to progressing to the faster category.
Hoy has impressed since he made the switch from cycling to sportscars, a move made possible by Nissan and its innovative GT Academy programme, which has provided training and support to the Scot during the transition, and the Estoril test marked an important step along the road to Le Mans. Hoy got his first taste of the mighty La Sarthe circuit when he took part in the Le Mans Test Day in June but, to compete in the main race, he needs to step up to the LMP2 category.
“I've learnt so much from racing in the Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 car this year,” Hoy said, “Nissan's driver development programme has been a proven success and that, coupled with everything I have learnt from Charlie and the Ginetta guys, has made sure I am ready to take the next step.
“The Gibson-Nissan is an incredible car. I immediately felt comfortable and was excited to find that the car does exactly what you ask it to do and really encourages you to use the downforce it delivers. It was wet today but, even though the track was slippery, I had lots of grip. I would love to race that car at Le Mans – in fact, I want to get back in it straight away. The test was worth every moment of the journey to get here!”
Greaves Motorsport has a long and successful history with Nissan NISMO, as it has been the team of choice for the Le Mans debuts of GT Academy winners, and team boss Jacob Greaves was at Estoril to witness Hoy's first LMP2 test.
“I was impressed with Chris today,” Greaves noted, “He arrived behind schedule, but immediately focused on the job he had to do. His lap times were consistent despite the bad weather and he impressed our engineer with his driving. We ran him all the way through until darkness fell and it was good to see that the change in light didn't faze him at all. He is driving extremely well.”
Nissan NISMO power has dominated the LMP2 class this year, powering the winner of every round of the European Le Mans Series and every round, so far, of the FIA World Endurance Championship. With a strong presence in LMP3 as well, the marque is also embodying Le Mans organiser ACO's sportscar ladder vision.
“The endurance pyramid is very important to the ACO,” president Pierre Fillon confirmed, “We wanted to create an entry-level category for our competitors and we are delighted with the success that the LMP3 category has enjoyed in its first year.
“It is also good to see Greaves Motorsport running Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson. They both fought hard for their championship win, so they deserve this prize drive. This test gives the winners a real opportunity to be assessed by an LMP2 champion and to open other doors for the future. The LNT team, of which Hoy and Robertson are members, also wins an invitation for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours in LMP2 provided they're entered in one of our series, which is an exceptional prize.”