Chris Hoy joy after 'amazing' Le Mans 24 Hours debut

Sir Chris Hoy with his race team at Le Mans
Sir Chris Hoy has concentrated on driving since retiring from cycling

Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy added to his record list of achievements when he finished the world's most demanding motorsport endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, on his debut.

Piloting his Nissan-powered Algarve Pro Racing Ligier LMP2 sportscar - and partnered by Frenchman Andrea Pizzitola and Brit Michael Munemann - Hoy finished 12th in class and 18th overall, in the 60-car field.

The 40-year-old from Edinburgh's contribution to the team's achievement was notable.

Thrown in at the deep end on the famous 8.45-mile circuit, which encompasses closed-off public roads normally used by cars, lorries and trundling French tractors, Hoy started with a quadruple stint that lasted 2 hours 40 minutes.

"Aye, there was none of this being eased into the race," he said as he celebrated with another beer in the French sunshine. "I was right into it: strapped into the car and, seconds later, travelling at around 180mph on the Mulsanne Straight.

"It's been the most exhilarating experience. I knew it would be tough, but I didn't underestimate Le Mans. I did three stints; a quadruple and two triples.

"Getting into the car for my final stint was tough. I'd had a massage and an hour-and-a-quarter's sleep and I think I slept too much.

"I woke up and felt drunk with tiredness, almost jet-lagged. It was about 7am and I was back in the car around 8.20am for my final stint."

Sir Chris Hoy in his Algarve Pro Racing Ligier LMP2
Sir Chris Hoy did three stints in his Algarve Pro Racing Ligier LMP2

Hoy, who said finishing the race felt like winning another medal to add to his six-gold Olympic haul, reflected on the harsh reality of getting back on-track.

"It's just 'bang', you're out on the track with guys who have been at full pace for hours," he said. "They're on it and you have to be on it too.

"There's none of this 'ah, I'll just take a lap and ease myself into it'. It's the ferocity of the pace and the fact the track has the potential to bite you at any moment.

"You need to be aggressive and fast, but you also need to treat it with respect.

"If you don't attack it, you won't get the performance. But, if you take liberties, you'll be in the wall. And it's a high-speed circuit, so you're likely to get hurt, or, yes, killed."

Hoy found the whole experience "amazing".

"I'm delighted and proud to have been part of it this year," he said.

Hoy, who has dedicated himself to four wheels since retiring from cycling after the London Olympics in 2012, is aware this could be his only opportunity to race at Le Mans.

"At the moment, this race brings my motorsport programme to an end," said the Scot, who will be at the Rio Olympics this summer as an ambassador for Nissan, the global car giant that backed his Le Mans assault.

Marino Franchitti poses for a selfie at Le Mans
Scotland's Marino Franchitti had a hard time in his Ford at Le Mans

"There's nothing else in the calendar for the rest of the year, unfortunately, but I've got the Le Mans bug and I'm desperate to come back, do it again and improve my driving.

"As we know, racing costs money, but I'd love to come back and race again."

Along with Hoy, three other Scots contested the 84th running of the race.

Kirkcaldy's Jonny Adam powered his Aston Martin to sixth in the highly competitive GTE Pro class, but there was frustration and disappointment for two other Scots.

While the Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier-Nissan of Airdrie's Ryan Dalziel finished 16th in LMP2, the Ford GT of Bathgate's Marino Franchitti endured a miserable race.

Gear selection problems meant the car started from the pitlane, two laps behind the leaders.

Worse was to follow a few laps later when the problems resurfaced, requiring almost two hours in the garage.

While Franchitti fought back to finish ninth in GTE Pro, and 41st overall, he was left contemplating what might have been: his team-mates in the three other Fords finished first, third and fourth.

At the head of the main LMP1 field, Porsche won its 18th Le Mans in dramatic style.

Ryan Dalziel
Airdrie's Ryan Dalziel finished 16th in his class

Having spent the bulk of the race behind the Toyota TS050 Hybrid, the Porsche 919 Hybrid inherited the lead when the Japanese car ground to a halt on the start-finish line with just three minutes remaining.

The Toyota, driven my Japan's Kazuki Nakajima, Swiss Sebastien Buemi and Brit Anthony Davidson, lost power on the penultimate lap, allowing Porsche to clinch the win.

It also allowed the sister Toyota of Briton Mike Conway, Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin and Japan's Kamui Kobayashi to be promoted to second.

Toyota has now finished second at Le Mans five times.

Audi, which endured a testing 24 hours with its brand new R18 Hybrid, took the final step on the podium with its car driven by England's Oliver Jarvis, Brazilian Lucas di Grassi, and Frenchman Loic Duval.

The German manufacturer, whose new car is the most technologically advanced in the sport, and which is the first of a pioneering new breed of hybrid sportscars, uncharacteristically struggled for reliability.

Former Dumfries racer Allan McNish, a three-time winner who is now a pivotal figure at Audi, admitted: "It's certainly not gone as smoothly as we had hoped, but we'll learn from this and come back bigger and stronger."

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