Will Hoy – A Tribute to The Gentleman Racer

Will Hoy, born in Cambridgeshire in 1952, was a relative late comer to competitive motorsport, having started in his late 20s. He started by winning various club championships in the 1980s before moving to sportscar racing. In 1985, he made the move to the World Sportscar Championship, which included racing at the world famous Le Mans 24 Hours.

Over the next few years, Will raced in a variety of different championships, including his first ever taste of the British Touring Car Championship.

In 1988, Will moved to the All Japan Touring Car Championship, where he finished an impressive 2nd overall in the Championship. He dovetailed this with 4 more meetings in the British Touring Car Championship.

After a brief stint in the Japanese Touring Car Championship, Will returned to Britain and the BTCC for 1991. Will had secured a plum drive with BMW Team Listerine, the semi-works team run by Vic Lee Motorsport. He would be partnered by Ray Bellm for his first full season in the championship.

hoy-1991
Will lines up alongside good friend John Cleland at Silverstone in 1991.

The start of the season would be dominated between BMW and Vauxhall, using their knowledge from the previous season of the new Super Touring formula to full effect. Will won the first two races of the season and took an early championship lead, which he would never relinquish. This was despite problems at Donington, where the BMW was adjudged to break the engine sound limits and quick modifications forced Will to retire.

By mid season, Toyota had caught up with development and Andy Rouse went on a winning run, but Will’s incredible consistency meant he was never close enough to challenge. Will’s consistency was so good, that whenever he finished a race, it was always on the podium.

This consistency put him in a position to claim the championship at the penultimate round at Thruxton, provided he scored a good enough result. Hoy took the lead of the race, but soon after was controversially tapped into a spin by fellow BMW driver, Jonathan Palmer. Hoy dropped down the field and later retired. Cleland would go on to finish 8th, meaning he got the points required to take the championship to the final race at Silverstone.

Will, however, finished in front of Cleland and 5th place was more than enough for him to take the British Touring Car Championship title by 17 points from Cleland.

WillHoy1991
Will won the BTCC title in his first full season.

For 1992, Will moved to the Toyota works team, teaming up with team principal Andy Rouse. Vauxhall, who had run a large test programme in the off season, dominated the first two meetings, with Cleland taking pole and the race win in both. However, at the next race, Hoy led a Toyota 1-2. Electrical gremlins hit Will intermittently through the race, which meant his team mate, Andy Rouse, would eventually take the win.

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Will fought for the 1992 BTCC title in a Toyota.

Will fought back at the next meeting and won his first race of the season and his general consistency throughout the season would see him be a challenger for the title right up until the final meeting of the season. Will went into the championship finale in third place in the standings, just 4 points off the leader, John Cleland. The season finale was due to go down into touring car fokelore, with Harvey as the beneficiary as he took the 1992 title. Will finished 2nd, just 3 points behind after recovering from an incident with Harvey at Copse. Cleland finished 3rd.

John-Cleland“I first met Will in 1991, when we were fighting for the championship. Immediately we became good friends and had total trust in each other on the track. This meant that we never exchanged paint on track, unlike some of the other lunatics at the time!

Will was gracious in defeat and a humble winner too! No big ego, despite his global success on the tracks of Japan and Le Mans etc.”

Heading into 1993 and Will stayed with Toyota, but with the new Carina E, which replaced the old model. Whilst the car had pace, it wasn’t the outright front runner that the previous Carina was and Will took 4 podium finishes throughout the season.

In fact, the biggest talking point of 1993 involved Will, as he and new team mate Julian Bailey were 1-2, with Will leading, in the Silverstone F1 support race, the biggest race of the season. Toyota were seemingly heading home a one-two finish, until an optimistic lunge from Bailey put him on a collision course with Will and tipped him onto his roof and forced Bailey himself into retirement. It was instead Keith O’Dor who took his and Nissan’s first BTCC victory.

Toyota1993Silverstone
“The car upside down, is a Toyota!” The infamous 1993 incident, where Julain Bailey tips Will Hoy onto his roof and out of the lead of the race at Silverstone.  

Will remained with Toyota into 1994, but after a season of uncompetitiveness for the marque, Will moved to Renault for 1995, which had just been taken over by Williams Touring Car Engineering. With a slow, but steady start to the year, as the car got better, so did Will and he was either on the podium, or failed to finish. After 3 wins and 7 podium finishes, he finished the championship in 4th position.

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Will leading the way at Snetterton for Renault in 1995.

Will endured a tough season in 1996, despite initially starting well, he finished 2nd to eventual champion Biela in both the races at the opening meeting. Sadly for Will, that form wouldn’t continue, as he would visit the podium only once more in 1996.

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Will debuted the new Mondeo model for Ford in 1997.

Will moved to Ford for 1997 and spent two years with the “Blue Oval”. Despite the Mondeo being largely uncompetitive throughout those 2 years, Will still managed to finish on the podium on more than one occasion, with the high point undoubtedly being Will’s victory at Silverstone in 1998, which was his final BTCC victory. In Will’s final year at Ford, he was partnered by Craig Baird and Nigel Mansell.

DiyjkfkWkAECkps“Will not only accepted me into the team immediately as a team mate, but more importantly, as a true friend. We got on very well and he was truly happy to see other people succeed and do well.

He had so much passion for the sport and the raw talent and desire to win. Will was a great man, who is sorely missed.”

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Joyous scenes as Will Hoy wins his final BTCC race at SIlverstone for Ford. Flanked by Jason Plato and Anthony Reid.

Half way through 1999, Will got the opportunity to race a privateer Renault Laguna for Arena Motorsport. Repalcing Russell Spence, who had struggled in the first half of the season, Will’s first race was the inaugural night race at Snetterton – where he immediately out-qualified both of the works Fords and promptly scored his first points of the season with a top 10 position. Despite only racing half the season, Will would end up 3rd in the Independent’s Championship, with 3 independent victories and an outright top 6 finish at Silverstone in the last meeting of the season.

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Will’s final super tourer was this Arena-run Laguna, scoring 3 class wins.

Will’s last appearance in the BTCC came at Silverstone in 2000. Back to his roots, Will raced a Class B Vic Lee Racing Peugeot 306, the same team boss he won the title with in 1991. He secured pole position in class for both races, but retired from both with mechanical failures.

In 2002, Will returned to the BTCC paddock, acting as a driver coach for the Honda BTCC programme, which was run by Arena, the last team he drove a Super Tourer for. He also provided expert analysis as a pundit and commentator for ITV Sport, during their first year of coverage of the BTCC.

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Will Hoy chats with Gareth Howell in 2002.

In late 2002, Will was sadly diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and shortly after diagnosis, the 50-year old passed away peacefully at a London Hospital on the evening of 19th December. Will was survived by his wife & 3 children and is sorely missed by the BTCC community.

John-Cleland“Will was taken from us far too soon and is still very much missed by everyone today. He was a real gentleman and a top bloke.

As we became good friends, we spent a lot of time together away from the track, usually on a golf course or at a restaurant.  He was great fun to be wih and had a wicked sense of humour – which we collectively channeled towards Alan Gow regularly!”

Baird1998“Will was a person who thought about others more than himself. He was a gentleman who was taken away far too early.

He had so much passion for the sport and the raw talent and desire to win. Will was a great man, who is sorely missed.”

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