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American Le Mans era ends as Guy Smith prepares for switch
11:07am Tuesday 8th October 2013 in Sport
EAST Yorkshire racing driver Guy Smith brought the curtain down on an impressive 14-year career in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) by finishing second in his final race.
Beverley-born Smith and fellow Englishman Johnny Mowlem finished 22.85 seconds behind the winners in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at the Virginia International Raceway, having led 31 of the race’s 84-laps in their Thetford/Racer Mazda Lola.
Smith had earned his eighth ALMS career pole-position around the 17-corner, 3.27-mile track on Friday and Mowlem took the lead after 30 minutes when the eventual winning Muscle Milk Honda went off the track momentarily.
Smith took over their Mazda-Lola with an hour gone, resuming second but sweeping ahead ten minutes later.
He lay 28 seconds behind the leader after making a final pit-stop for fuel and tyres with 48 minutes to run, but a final safety car period which Dyson Racing hoped would bring the field closer together did not materialise.
“Johnny and I had a solid car all weekend,” said Smith, who now lies third in this year’s standings despite choosing to miss three races with one eye on the 2014 season.
“The car has improved all year and we felt we had a real shot for the win. We raced them (Muscle Milk) hard and led the race. I wish we had the car we have now and the season was starting again at Sebring.
“No matter how long you have been doing this, winning a pole is a great feeling. We came close a couple times this year and were just a tenth or two away.”
The 165-minute event marked Smith’s final ALMS race – a North American endurance sportscar series the Yorkshireman has contested regularly since 2000 and which is replaced by a new championship with new car regulations next year.
Smith, who won the title in 2011 and finished second last year, competed in 84 ALMS races, achieving 35 top-three finishes including four outright wins.
“It’s sad that Virginia was my last ALMS race,” said Smith.
“The series has pretty much been my ‘home’ for the past decade and the majority of that time with Dyson Racing.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed racing in the ALMS and feel very proud to have won a championship as the competition has been some of the best in sportscar racing.
“The paddock is like one big family, with a great atmosphere for both teams and fans alike, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it has been so popular for so long.
“The cars are the ultimate sportscars. Hustling one around circuits such as Mosport and Road America was a truly exhilarating experience.
“I will miss the insane speeds and incredible cornering forces that the Mazda Lola gave us.
“However I welcome the new United SportsCar Championship that will run in place of ALMS and the Grand-Am series, and the new competition and fresh challenges that it will bring.”
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