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Chris Hoy and the Jaguar F-Type

  1. Appropriately, there’s a gold button at the base of the F-Type’s centre console. Sir Chris Hoy presses it. This is only right. The angry bark of a supercharged V6 is deafening, magnified hugely as it echoes back from the confined studio walls. Then, just as suddenly, it’s gone.

    “Didn’t expect that,” Sir Chris says into the silence, a tinge of pink colouring his features. “Makes a great noise though, eh?” he smiles. “Nice steering wheel, too - for me, that’s an important thing, just the feel of it. If you get one that’s too big or you can’t access the paddles properly…”, he pulls a face, adding, “Hey, but it’s a bit special in here: you feel like you’re cocooned, and it’s definitely a step on from the XKR in terms of the interior. Seats feel nice, too,” he says, wriggling his wide shoulders. “Good to see it looking like the concept. Is there still talk of the hybrid engine?”

    Words: Ollie Marriage

    Photos: Joe Windsor-Williams/Ripley & Ripley 

  2. Sir Chris Hoy (“just Chris”), Britain’s greatest Olympian, the owner of six gold medals across three Olympics, appears to be well-informed about Jaguar’s new F-Type. But he is a brand ambassador, and knows his way around an XKR: “I could get the bike in the coupe, no problem at all, but I’ve just got a convertible for the first time and I’m loving the pops and bangs you get from the exhaust.” He’s also part of Jag’s Academy of Sport, a programme set up a few years ago to not only provide bursary awards to promising young athletes, but, perhaps more importantly, to give them access to current sporting greats for inspiration, motivation and training. Yep, this is about establishing legacy, and Jag got there ahead of the Olympics.

  3. Chris suits the new Jag. There’s a hint of muscle car to the F-Type’s rear arches, while Chris is just plain muscular. Six foot one, broad, dense and powerful, he’s more rugby back than cyclist. No spare flesh, though - surely a sign of a dedicated athlete. “Not that most people see that, mind. They see you once every four years and think you just dust yourself down and go off and win gold, but they don’t see the routine, the training and all the rest that goes into it.”

    So is there time for cars in his life? “I sort of make time. I used to watch so much motorsport on TV, especially when Colin McRae was rallying and it was on Channel 4, but because I got into serious training from a young age I’ve never had that much time to really enjoy cars. Until about four years back, when I went on a track day to Bedford. But it’s weird, you know - it seems like I’ve been doing track driving a lot longer because I’ve got completely obsessed with it!”

  4. A track-riding superstar who loves track driving? Is that really such a surprise? There is crossover - Chris claims it’s the speed, but for anyone with such single-minded dedication over such a long period, there’s got to be more to it. A competitive instinct? Certainly, but both disciplines are repetitious, allowing him to focus on small, thousandth-of-a-second gains. You get the feeling Chris has a precise, orderly mind. I’m willing to stake money on his kitbag being neatly packed.

    Are there parallels between bikes and cars on track? “It’s not that you’d use a track day to train your skills, or that the physical sensations are the same, but it’s about predicting what’ll happen. You look at some cycling races, like the Keirin, where there’s a lot of people, and you’re always looking ahead, trying to predict what’s going to happen in 20, 30 metres.”

  5. “Tell you where I did spot some similarities. I was up in a Typhoon fighter jet two weeks ago, and it was amazing how similar it was; it was just like being at the apex of the bend, the compression you feel - except you don’t have a g suit on when you’re on the bike - but it’s that feeling, that thrill of speed that hooks you in when you start riding on the track, and if you’re into speed…”

    Things clearly spiral from there. So, how often does he get to do track days? “Well, luckily I have a coach who loves cars and understands the morale boost it can bring - plus a few teammates are into it as well. Jason Kenny has a Ginetta [G20] roadster - he’s potentially going to start racing at the end of this year, and I’d love to do the same sort of thing, just in something low-key, something that’s fairly low-powered, so you don’t get yourself in too much trouble. Even if it’s hillclimbs, I’d just love to have a competitive go at something.”

  6. Competition runs in Hoy’s veins - he has a game he plays with Kenny when they’re travelling together. “We’ll say, ‘Right, £100,000, five cars, 10 minutes, go.’ And you’ll go, ‘Right, my track car would be this, my everyday car would be this, so-and-so would be my tow car…’”

    Unsurprisingly, his dream garage changes all the time, but what of his actual garage? “I had a Caterham R400 up until last November, but I had to drive it with my elbows hanging out the side. And when you did a bit of opposite lock, you’d catch your knees with your hands, plus if you had a passenger it was difficult, especially if it was one of your teammates, because they’re the same size as you, so it’s a comedy, like two elephants in a Mini. So I sold it and bought a secondhand Lotus 2-Eleven. You don’t feel like you’re hanging out of it, so you feel safer in it and that means you’re happier pushing harderon the track.” It’s also a car that’s less about big skids, more about speed, precision and focus…

  7. It lives in the garage at home, and Chris drives it to and from tracks, most often Oulton Park. “I’d love to have the space and money to keep cars and not sell them. In fact, one of my biggest regrets is selling my E46 M3 [he sold it to a teammate], because that was a lovely car, but my skill levels weren’t high enough to get the most out of it on the road.” Speaking of roads, his training does include one or two road rides per week (“for recovery purposes”) plus a couple of gym sessions (“We’ll focus on just one or two exercises such as the squat and deadlift, lifting very heavy weights with very few repetitions, for maximal muscle recruitment”).

    Aside from that, his training is all track-focused. Lapping a 250m track countless times, that’s got to get boring, right? “Well, not really. We do such short intense bursts of speed that really you have to focus, and the speed itself makes it quite a dangerous activity. Behind the motorbike, you can get up to 85kph [53mph], maybe just two or three inches away. And that’s exciting,” he grins.

  8. “What’s really grim is doing aero work in the wind tunnel. It’s crucial, because it can make a massive difference, but you have to be on the bike and pedalling hard in race position, otherwise it’s not specific enough. So you’re sitting on the end of your saddle, in a position you’d hold for 10 to 20 seconds normally and you’re doing that for eight hours a day, doing trials for the helmet, suit, bike components, your position…”

    And does that tell you how much power you produce? “Yes.” And…? “My peak watts is about 2,500-2,600, but you’re only hitting that for a second, maybe a second and a half. But to get that, you need to be in the ultimate cadence band, so for peak power that’s 120 to 130 revs.”

  9. Quick bit of translation for you: Chris Hoy’s power stats are a suitably beefy 3.5bhp at 120rpm. But that’s nothing. “We have this big rig in the lab and it essentially has two [consecutive] gear systems that connect to this massive flywheel with paddles on it, so that if you stand on the pedals, they barely move; and we do two revs, just two revs at maximum, then stop and rest for 20 seconds, but for the first few degrees of motion, I’ve hit over 700Nm of torque.”

    That’s 516lb ft. More than either a Ferrari F12 or twin-turbo BMW M5 can muster. Blimey. And how does this translate into acceleration? “Well, the guy that leads us out for the team sprint [Philip Hindes] can reach 100 metres in 8.9 seconds, and does zero to 60kph [37mph] in about 10 seconds.”

  10. But what of Sir Chris? He’s 36 now, can he hold on to his form for another few years? “I’ve got a couple of small races coming up, plus the opening of the Glasgow Velodrome in October.” Hoy is too modest to point out the venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is named after him…

    But surely aiming for gold there would be the perfect way to round off a glorious career? “It’s my body that’ll make the decision for me. I have noticed that it’s more difficult to recover from the intensity of training as you get older. Having said that, I love the look of the C-X75 [the £750,000 hybrid supercar]. Reckon I’ll have to keep going into my seventiesto afford that thing.”

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