Le Mans circuit, France. 16th June 2000 - Hull-based British racing driver, Guy Smith, receives the coveted Le Mans 24 Hours Rookie of the Year trophy today with a presentation by Robert Jarry, Mayor of Le Mans, in front of an estimated 50,000 fans at the Grande Parade de Pilotes, being held in Le Mans town centre later today.
Smith recorded the 18th fastest lap of this famous circuit in the qualifying sessions, 20 places ahead of nearest rookie rival, Emmanuelle Naspetti, with a total of 37 drivers being newcomers to the event. Commenting on his achievement, Smith said, "I hadn't realised I was the quickest rookie, so this has all come as a bit of a surprise. I'm obviously delighted to win the award. My race car - the Reynard 2KQ- LM and I are both rookies and we've both been improving our performance over the last two days. I hope I can continue to improve and help to bring home a good result for the Johansson Matthews team. Of course, I'd love to have added to the trophy collection by the end of the weekend!"
The team will start 7th on the grid for the famed Le Mans 24 Hours race. This may be exciting enough for the 25 year old, but he had a bit of a fright last night after running into a rabbit!
In the second and final day of qualifying, Smith improved on his fastest time, continued to gain more track experience and settle into the car. He comments, "The first session was pretty good, starting where I left off yesterday, trying to learn the circuit. With the session being in daylight it was easier for me. I managed to improve my lap times - the main thing for me is that every time I get in the car I'm going faster, which is important. In the second session, I ran later and we used this time to practice pitstops and driver changes in anger. My final run was curtailed a bit quickly when my Reynard car met a rabbit. Luckily I was on a slowing down lap. Just before the Porsche curves I saw a pair of bright eyes of a rabbit very briefly, next minute, 'bang', I'd hit it, so as I went through the curves, all I could smell was rabbit cooking! I wasn't going too fast so it didn't damage the car too much, but it wasn't very pleasant. I think I hit a bird last night and with a rabbit tonight, I hope that's my close encounters with wildlife over and I'll have a clear run in the race. "