EAST Yorkshire’s Guy Smith has won the 2011 American Le Mans Series title after finishing second at Laguna Seca in California.
The Beverley ace and American co-drivers Chris Dyson and Jay Cochran brought their G-Oil/ ModSpace/Construct Corps Lola-Coupe home three laps behind the winners in the six-hour Californian race.
For Smith, who won the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hour race for Bentley, it marks his first championship title since winning the 1995 British Formula Renault series.
“I’m thrilled to have won the ALMS title outright having been trying for a number of years,” he said.
“The closing minutes were pretty dramatic but in the end it all came good.
“I would have preferred to win the title with a victory, but in the end it didn’t matter as our championship rivals, who have been great competition throughout the season, suffered a problem costing them a lot of time.
“Furthermore, the car that won wasn’t registered for the series so we collected maximum points.
“It was a rollercoaster of a day. The team did an amazing job in changing the engine in just 70 minutes between the morning ‘warm-up’ and the start of the race.
“There is no better place to have won the championship title than at the Mazda Raceway for a ModSpace race. The Lola was really good in qualifying and the race.”
Dyson started the six-hour race staged on the 2.238 miles, 11-corner coastal track from pole position, Smith having claimed pole the previous day for a second consecutive year at Laguna to chalk up his fourth top qualifying position of the season.
The American led until slipping to fourth place after ten minutes but was back in front with 90 minutes gone before Smith took over with two hours on the clock during a full course caution.
The Briton resumed third but forced his way in to the lead moments later after setting a series of fastest race laps.
Smith stretched his lead advantage to 70 seconds with a little over two hours remaining only for a full course caution to cruelly cancel out his advantage.
He pitted with 70 minutes to go, 26 seconds ahead, handing over to Cochran who slipped to second place 20 minutes later.
With just 20 minutes to the chequered flag, Cochran pitted to replace a punctured left rear tyre after contact with a back-marker dropping to third.
The American lost further time after spinning moments later but moved back up to second place with three minutes remaining when the “sister” Dyson Lola made a pit-stop in to the closing minutes of the race which finished in near darkness.
The Smith/Dyson/Cochran Lola-Mazda led 149 laps of the 248-lap race.
As well as Smith and Dyson claiming the Drivers’ championship, Dyson Racing won the 2011 American Le Mans Series LMP1 Team title, Mazda won the Engine Manufacturer title and Dunlop took home the Tyre Championship.
The ninth and final round of the ALMS is a 1,000-mile race staged at Road Atlanta, Georgia, on October 1.
Smith added: “I must thank the Dyson Racing Team, Rob and Chris, my co-driver since 2005. We have worked very hard and had a lot of highs and lows through our time driving together.
“This year has been phenomenal. This is truly a team championship. Having won the title we can now go to the final race with the pressure off and enjoy ourselves.”