Guy Smith came from back to front to record a fantastic win in a four-hour race at Road America in Wisconsin on Saturday – a victory that moves the Yorkshireman back in to contention to successfully defend his American Le Mans Series title.
Reigning ALMS champion Smith and American co-driver Chris Dyson finished a mere 0.083secs ahead of title rivals Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr – the closest ALMS finish – after a tense final few laps and now trail them in the title race by just 12-points with three races to run.
“It was a great race,” reflected Smith. “We’ve suffered from outright pace at times this season but today I believe we deserved our race win.
“I knew Lucas [Luhr] would attempt a dive past on the last lap. I thought I had him covered but he slipped ahead on the inside of the corner after entering it very fast. So I ‘over’ slowed my car so that I could undercut him on the exit. I then a better run off the corner up the hill to the finishing line.”
Dyson had started the four-hour race from the back of the 35-car field having been forced to miss qualifying the previous day but the American was second after just nine laps and led with 45mins (23 laps) gone when leader Klaus Graf pitted with a water leak and dropped four laps behind.
Smith got behind the wheel of their leading Lola B12/60 Mazda Coupé with 86mins remaining, the pit-stop demoting Guy to fifth place overall.
Smith, having finished second in class in the previous five races, was back in the lead with 64mins to run around the four-mile, 14-corner track.
The penultimate full course caution in the final hour saw Smith and Luhr both pit, Guy resuming second overall but with Luhr sixth but importantly now back on the same lap.
Opening round winner Smith led with 35mins remaining but another caution period enabled Luhr to gain almost a minute – the race resuming with 20mins remaining with Smith just 29secs ahead of Luhr.
Smith set a series of personal fastest laps with Luhr close on his tail, the German snatching the lead briefly at the final corner only for Guy to re-take the lead on the final drag up the hill across the finishing line – the Smith/Dyson Lola having led 54 of the race’s 101 laps.
Guy remarked: “We had suffered a gearbox problem in the practice session prior to qualifying and unfortunately did not have enough time to repair it in time so Chris started from the back of the grid but drove a storming opening two-hour stint.”
Smith’s race victory came 12 months after he had crossed the finishing line just 0.112 behind Graf – the previous closest ever ALMS finish.
“I was beside him taking the chequered flag in last year’s corresponding race so it was doubly nice to record a victory here today in very similar circumstances but this time with me half a car’s length ahead,” reflected Smith.
“Today was too close for comfort – I never expected anything could beat last year’s close finish.”
The seventh round of the 10-race series is staged in Baltimore on 1 September.
Source: Guy Smith