Yorkshire’s Guy Smith aims to get his 2013 American Le Mans Series campaign off to a flying start with a healthy points haul on Saturday (16 March) in arguably the toughest race of the season.
The 38-year-old Beverley-born sportscar driver who lives in Welton, contests the 61st running of the annual 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida.
2003 Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Smith teams up with regular co-driver Chris Dyson and fellow American Butch Leitzinger sharing a Lola Mazda Coupe at Sebring.
Guy commented: “It isn’t going to be easy for us [Dyson Racing] to beat our main ALMS rivals, the Muscle Milk team, who pipped us to the ALMS title by just nine points last year.
“The Swiss-based Rebellion team, who I raced for at Le Mans in 2010 and ’11, is contesting the championship this year and they will also be strong.
“But I believe we [Dyson Racing] can take the fight to these guys. We need to qualify well at Sebring and race hard against these guys. A very good feature of the Dyson team is that they are good on race strategy.
“Long-time Dyson driver Butch Leitzinger returns to the fold to join Chris and I at Sebring. He’s solid, especially in a 12 hour race, and is a ‘safe’ pair of hands.”
Smith began racing for Dyson in 2005 and the New York State-based team is celebrating its 30th year in professional sports car racing this year.
Guy tested at Sebring recently for two day’s in preparation for this important race – the longest on the ALMS calendar – and one in which its important to get a healthy points haul.
“I tested some developments at the test at Sebring last month which was a step in the right direction and we have some engine tweaks coming later in the season which we believe will make a considerable difference,” continued Guy.
“It’s really down to us to get up to speed with the Michelin tyres and get the best out of them and forget what we learned with the tyre supplier we used for the previous three years.
“We struggled last year, a combination of not quite nailing the car’s set-up and not getting the best out of the tyres.
“Sebring is always a huge challenge every year but it is a brilliant race – it epitomises what sportscar racing is all about.
“The track at almost four miles in length is relatively long while the bumpy and fast nature, combined by a high ambient temperature, makes it a physically demanding race for the driver and puts the car through a real stern test.”
Dyson Racing has renewed its long-term partnership with Mazda. The #16 Thetford/RACER Mazda Lola entry with Dyson and Smith will be Mazda-powered for the fifth year.
Mazda won its first P1 victory at Mid-Ohio in 2010 and the manufacturer’s championship the following year. Last year, the team bookended the season with first place ALMS P1 points at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, and won at Road America in the closest ever overall finish in ALMS history.
“The biggest credit I can give to Guy it that he is every bit as motivated and is faster than when we started driving together almost ten years ago,” said Dyson.
“All you can ever ask from your teammate is that they give 100 percent and with Guy, that is never in doubt. Guy is incredibly supportive as a teammate.
He is a team player and when the chips are down, he knows how to get it done. Everyone knows in pit lane when he comes in from a race stint or a qualifying run, he has given it everything he has.
There are never excuses, just performance. And that is why we’ve worked so well together.”
An entry of around 40-cars is expected for the ALMS opening race of the 2013 season. Qualifying around the 3.74-mile track is staged on Friday (1815*) with the race getting underway at 1430* on Saturday.
Since the final ALMS race of 2012 last October, Smith has contested some historic races and rallies in Britain but also made his GT3 debut when the Yorkshireman drove a Ferrari 458 for new British team, RAM Racing, in the Dubai 24 Hours in January.