Why Le Mans winner Smith came out of retirement for Ginetta WEC run

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

Why Le Mans winner Smith came out of retirement for Ginetta WEC run

Smith had not 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 2019/20 WEC season with Ginetta's factory Team LNT outfit.

Last weekend's Silverstone opener was 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 so was replaced by Oliver Jarvis.

"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 Autosport.

"But I always thought if a good opportunity came up I would definitely consider it.

"I've known Lawrence [Tomlinson] a number of years, I've followed his progress with the LMP1 car quite closely, and Chris 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 Le Mans in 2003 alongside Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello.

"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% 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 to 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."

Smith had predicted that Silverstone would be little more than a "test" for Ginetta, and his car finished 17 laps down after multiple problems and incidents.

But he did not discount the prospect of Ginetta 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."

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