The son of a farmer, William Ewing Hoy was born in the village of Melbourn in Cambridgeshire. He learned to drive at an early age, using a tractor on the farm, he also rode horses and won many rosettes at local gymkhanas. However when he was given a go-kart as a present for his 14th birthday, the racing bug bit and, with his younger brother James, was soon competing in local kart races.
After attending the Leys School, Cambridge, he studied estate management at Reading University, qualified as a chartered surveyor and took a job with Bernard Thorpe & Partners in London.
He moved up to superkarts and, in 1979, won the World Cup 210. The same year, he held the lead going into the final lap of both the British Kart Grand Prix at Silverstone and the British Short Circuit Championship at Dunkeswell in Devon but on both occasions mechanical failure put him out.
When the loss of his sponsor brought Hoy’s karting career to an abrupt end, he turned to Hugh Chamberlain, one of his team-mates in a pub rugby side called the Slippery Nipple Club. Chamberlain, who ran a team on the Clubmans sports-car circuit, was highly dubious about Hoy’s potential as a racing driver, but after a number of drunken conversations, he eventually agreed that Hoy could have a try-out in one of his Clubmans Mallocks in return for a run in Hoy’s superkart.
Chamberlain later recalled: “I was appalling in the kart and he was very quick in the Clubmans car, so I started running him as part of my three or four-car team.”
Clubman cars were front-engined, rear-wheel drive and, at the top level, used highly modified 1700cc Ford Kent engines producing anything up to a reputed 190bhp. That was quite a lot more than a Formula 3 car of the era, and in fact Clubmans cars could more or less match the F3s on lap times through being quicker down the straights, though they weren't quite as nimble through the bends. If anyone could give an F3 driver a hard time in a Clubmans car, it was Will Hoy. A large proportion of the drivers in the class were easy-going amateurs (hence the name), but Hoy was obviously taking the whole thing very seriously. There was almost nobody who could beat him. He was a winner of one of the 1984 Grovewood Awards.
It was with Chamberlain that Will moved up to Thundersports en route to WSC. Hugh wanted to enter Group C so with support from Peter Reich and Creighton Brown they aquired a Tiga sports prototype in spider configuration, into which they inserted a Hart 415T Turbo motor. Given that this was an offshoot of Brian Hart's F1 turbo motor of which Alan Jones, when driving for Beatrice, once said, "We are the only team whose qualifying tyres last longer than our qualifying engines!" it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
Never the less Will and Creighton drove the Tiga in Thundersports in 1985 though reliability was always a problem. He made his Group C Sportscar debut that year at the Monza 1000kms driving a Tiga Ford for Roy Baker (who tragically died just a few days before Will in 2002).
He progressed through the sportscar ranks with Chamberlain, before driving for Martin Schanche’s Argo-Zakspeed Group C2 team in international races.
After making his mark on the domestic scene and in his first European sportscar forays, Will then became one of a group of British drivers who made it big in Japan in the late 1980's. Racing in their Group C sportscar series and also their touring car championship for five years, finishing second overall in the 1988 All Japan Touring Car Championship and winning the 2.5-litre class in 1990, driving a BMW.
In 1989 he shared a Vern Schuppen run Porsche 962C at Le Mans with American Dominic Dobson and an up and coming French F3000 driver called Jean Alesi.
Though Will was well known within the sport, it was only when he started racing in the British Touring Car Championship in the early 1990s, that he became familiar to the general public. BMW was a major force in the BTCC then, and Hoy was one of the best BMW drivers out there. In fact, it was in an Vic Lee-run BMW M3 that he won his only title - the first of the Super Touring era - back in 1991.
He finished runner-up a year later for Toyota, just losing out to Tim Harvey in the legendary all-action finale at Silverstone. During this period Hoy had an enormous testing shunt at Knockhill, doing considerably damage to the Toyota. John Cleland, then Vauxhall's top works driver, was heartily amused by this and, in a take-off of the advertising campaign "The car in front is a Toyota", applied a sticker reading "The car in the scrapyard is a Toyota" to the hastily repaired Carina shortly before it went out for qualifying. But Hoy had suffered in the shunt too, and he raced that day in considerable pain, not only from the bruising but also from the acupuncture needles stuck in his earlobes (and held firmly in place by his balaclava and crash helmet) in a strange attempt to make life easier for him.
He spent 1995 and 1996 driving for Frank Williams' new Renault Touring Car team before joining the Ford Mondeo programme.
To prove his all-round skills, Hoy won the made for TV Silverstone Rallysprint in 1998. He contested more than 150 BTCC rounds between 1989 and 1999, winning nine races in total.
Hoy disappeared from the BTCC for a while but came back when Arena Motorsport bought a Renault Laguna and attempted to contest the Independents' Cup with it. They got an ex-F3000 driver to sit behind the wheel, and for most of the season it looked as though the car was a complete dog. But then the ex-F3000 driver left, Hoy took over, and suddenly the Laguna was winning its class. There was obviously a lot of magic still there.
In 2002 Hoy was still part of Arena as the team ran the works Civic Type-Rs for Honda. ITV's cameras caught his more than somewhat relieved expression as Andy Priaulx almost, but not quite, threw away the Civic's first race win at a wet Knockhill by getting into a major tank-slapper less than a mile from the finish.
Hoy always talked well on camera and had previously made a good show of being a TV pundit, a transition he made effortlessly. The fact that he came across as being more genial and less in-your-face than most other drivers probably made all the difference.
Will continued to race right up until he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September of 2002 and passed away just three months later.
A true gentleman with a brilliant sence of humor, Will was a bloody nice guy and a good friend.
They say that you can tell the true worth of a man by the friends that he keeps and if you had cast your eye around the 750 people who congregated at his memorial service, you would have seen that Will was very well off in that department.
From Sir Jackie Stewart and Patrick Head to humble racing fans that he had befriended in countless paddocks over the years, they came to remember a man, about whom, not a bad word was ever uttered.
Will was a BRDC member and twice won the prestigious BRDC Silver Star. The BRDC now administer the Will Hoy Scholarship, made possible with the support of some very influential people, including Tim Jackson of Renault UK, Sir Frank Williams and a group of people who simply want to be known as “Friends of Will Hoy”.