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Lewis Hamilton in pole position as he starts Olympic torch relay

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Proudly holding the Olympic flame aloft, Lewis Hamilton began day 52 of the Olympic torch relay.The 27-year-old racing driver looked thrilled as set off from St George's Square in Luton on Monday morning."I didn't believe them actually when they asked me to do it," delighted Lewis said afterwards."It's such an incredible experience, I feel very very honoured."

Lewis was initially due to carry the torch through his home town of Stevenage on Sunday.But those plans were changed while he competed in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, in which he finished eighth.Joking that he should have taken part in the Olympic relay instead of racing, Lewis said he didn't mind missing out on the chance to carry the flame through his old neighbourhood.The important thing, he said, was that he had been given the "opportunity to do it" and to "be a part of something so big".He also revealed that he had bought his torch and planned to keep it above his mantelpiece as a momento of the event - torchbearers were told in March that they could pay £199 to keep the special souvenir.

While Lewis was born and raised in Stevenage, he now calls Monaco home after relocating there from Geneva earlier this year.But the patriotic Brit was only too happy to take part in his nation’s Olympic celebrations.Hundreds of people turned out to see him start the relay.The 2008 Formula 1 champion set off at 6.30 am on his 300m leg, before handing over to local student Hollie Baxter, 17, who suffers from Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome and has been in a wheelchair since age 11.They were two of 133 torchbearers taking part in Monday's journey, as the torch travels from Luton to Oxford.Olympic badminton silver medallist Gail Emms later carried the flame through her home town of Milton Keynes.

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