Smith wanted taste of LMP1's "golden era" with Ginetta

Le Mans 24 Hours winner Guy Smith says he was tempted to come out of semi-retirement to join Ginetta's LMP1 project in part because he wanted to sample the category's "golden era".

Smith wanted taste of LMP1's "golden era" with Ginetta

Smith hasn't raced competitively since he stepped down from Bentley's GT3 project last year, but the 44-year-old has signed up to contest a full season of the FIA World Endurance Championship with Ginetta's factory Team LNT outfit in 2019/20.

This weekend's Silverstone opener will therefore mark Smith's first outing in a prototype since he raced a Lola B12/60 alongside long-time driving partner Chris Dyson in the American Le Mans Series in 2013.

Dyson, who has links to Ginetta engine supplier AER, was due to race alongside Smith and Mike Simpson in the squad's #6 car at Silverstone but had to withdraw due to injury.

"When I stopped last year with Bentley, I wanted to step away, have less pressure and more time with family," 2003 Le Mans winner Smith told Motorsport.com. "But I always thought if a good opportunity came up I would definitely consider it.

"I’ve known Lawrence [Tomlinson, team owner] a number of years, I’ve followed his progress with the LMP1 car quite closely, and Chris [Dyson] and Lawrence wanted me to be part of that. They asked me if I would consider [racing], I had a test in the car, and I loved it.

"Every time I get in it I feel like I’m learning. I spent five years trying to unlearn prototypes to race in GT3, now I’ve got to forget all that and relearn again. It’s slowly coming back to me."

Smith said that part of the appeal of returning to racing was being able to sample the current breed of LMP1 machinery before they are replaced by slower hypercars in 2020/21.

He highlighted how much faster the cars in the top class had become since he helped Bentley to outright victory at La Sarthe in 2003 alongside Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello.

Guy Smith Bentley

Guy Smith Bentley

Photo by: Jeff Bloxham / LAT Images

"In the Bentley we were doing 3m30s laps [at Le Mans], now these cars are doing 3m15s, 3m17s, they’re considerably quicker," he said. "There’s probably 25 percent more downforce than what I’m used to, that’s a big step.

"That’s why these cars are so appealing – they’ll never be faster than they are now. It’s a golden era because these cars are truly fantastic. In the high-speed corners they are comparable to an F1 car, so to drive these cars at those speeds is fantastic."

Asked if he could see himself racing on beyond next year's Le Mans, Smith said: "I think I’ll just see how I feel. I’ve come back in one of the hardest categories in motorsport, it’s not an easy one, but we’ll see how it goes.

"If I’m enjoying it at the end of the season, why not? But right now it’s weekend-by-weekend, enjoying working with the team and driving the car."

While Smith said this weekend's Silverstone opener will be little more than a "test" for Ginetta, he didn't discount the prospect of the British marque winning a race this season, particularly with the arrival of success handicaps.

"I think it’s absolutely possible," he said. "I think it would take some luck, Toyota are always going to be incredibly hard to beat without them having some kind of issues. But in motor racing things can happen.

"All we can do is focus on ourselves, try not to make mistakes, and if we can do that we can be in a position to fight. But certainly we’d like to win a race by the end of the season."

The WEC 4 Hours of Silverstone will be streamed live on Motorsport.tv. Click here for more coverage details.

#6 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1: Michael Simpson, Oliver Jarvis, Guy Smith

#6 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1: Michael Simpson, Oliver Jarvis, Guy Smith

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

shares
comments
Silverstone WEC: Toyota heads Rebellion in FP3

Previous article

Silverstone WEC: Toyota heads Rebellion in FP3

Next article

Silverstone WEC: Toyota sees off Rebellion for pole

Silverstone WEC: Toyota sees off Rebellion for pole
Load comments
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Prime

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success.

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car Prime

How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car

The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and was considered the heavy favourite to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen.

Le Mans
Aug 15, 2021