Another Bentley-boy has decided to go into retirement.
43 year-old Guy Smith has opted to end his professional career at Bentley Team M-Sport in their GT3 programme.
By doing that, all of the drivers from the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans winning combination, have now chosen a live where not everything is about racing car – and then still a bit of cars left.
Smith is still connected to Bentley as test- and development driver, and as the press release a bit cryptically says, he will still be available for costumer racing teams around the world. That will probably mean, that if a team needs a driver for Bathurst 12 Hours of the Spa 24 hours to name a few, they might be able to pick up Smith for the weekend.
He will continue work as an ambassador for Bentley, like we also see one of his 2003 teammates, Tom Kristensen, doing at Audi these days.
Smith started his racing career, like so many others, in single-seaters in the early to mid 90’s. He moved to the USA in 1998 to race in Indy Lights, where he won the Rookie Of The Year title. His single-seater career took a bit of a dip after that, he was lucky to have driven for Stefan Johannson’s Indy Lights team, so when the Swede needed at driver for the American Le Mans Series, he found Smith’s number in the phone book.
He was signed by Bentley for the Le Mans programme in 2001, and stayed with the British team for the full 3 years that the programme lasted, ending up winning the big race alongside Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen.
Other than the Bentley Programme, he continued to the in the ALMS in the USA, where he raced until the end of 2013, being an integrated part of Dyson Racing.
The ALMS closed after the 2013 season, and Dyson Racing didn’t move into the new IMSA Championship, and then he was all of a sudden without a job.
Until Bentley called and asked if he wanted to be a part of their new GT3 programme.
That didn’t take a long time for him to say yes to, and he has since then been touring the world with that specific programme.
The Bentley EXP Speed 8 car, which won Le Mans 2003, was probably one of the most beautiful Le Mans cars ever to win the race. No only was it painted in British Racing Green, it also had some nice aerodynamic looks, without too many strands things sticking out here and there, like you see today.
There was a few downsides to the car. One of them being the closed cockpit and it’s wind shield wiper, which had a tendency to lift during high speeds. And of course the heat inside the closed cockpit.
The Le Mans organizers were well aware of the aerodynamic advantages with the close car compared to the open top car like the Audi R8. So they penalised it by mandating very narrow (in racing terms) tires. That gave them more tire wear, and since a tire change would take a lot of time, the driver would simply have to stay in the car for longer, so the tire changes would fit the driver changes. During the 2003 Le Mans race, the #7 crew were quadruple stinting the drivers, which was almost unheard of in those days, especially in closed cars, and that was part of the reason of them beating the sister car #8, and all the privateers with their Audi R8’s which otherwise was unbeatable at that time.
The five other drivers in the 2003 programme are, as previous mentioned, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen in #7, while David Brabham, Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell drove #8. The factory kind of wanted the all “British” #8 to win, but it didn’t got like that, and Tom Kristensen was able to take his fifth Le Mans victory, while Dindo and Guy took their first.
Johnny Herbert now works as a Formula 1 expert at Sky SPorts.
Mark Blundell has his own driver management company alongside Martin Brundle.
David Brabham is running Brabham Automotive, who has just launched their first car in many years, plus many other things associated to the Brabham name.
Dindo Capello is an Audi ambassador and has some Audi car dealerships in Italy.
Tom Kristensen is also an Audi ambassador, plus he is still helping the team out with their fitness programme. He is often the Driver Steward in Formula 1, helping out the race stewards, and he is President for the FIA Drivers Commision, which handles the drivers voices at the FIA, if there are some things they wants to get changed. More recently has he become ambassador for the new FIA Girls on Track programme, trying to get more girls to do motorsport, and keep them in the sport, all the way to the top level, which sadly lacks female representatives.
Guy Smith drove his final race for Bentley Team M-Sport today at Silverstone, where he finished in the middle of the pack in the Blancpain Endurance Cup race, at the home circuit.