Guy Smith has set his sights on LMP2 victory in the first round of the American Le Mans Series at Sebring as his Dyson team prepares to give the new Lola-Mazda its race debut.
The team, which switches from the Porsche RS Spyder in 2009, will race a new British-built Lola Coupe B09/86 at the 12-hour event, where it has been mated to a two-litre Mazda turbocharged engine.
To be joined by Chris Dyson and Andy Lally in the team, Smith is confident the new car will prove as quick in race conditions as it did during testing when it ran the leading Lowe's Fernandez Acura close.
Even so, while Smith thinks he can challenge for victory, he is aware that the double points on offer means that getting to the finish line is most necessary.
“The most important thing is to finish the Sebring race as it's worth double points and the LMP2 class is so competitive that you can't afford to drop points in the first race of the season,” he said.
“The BP Lola-Mazda 'package' is new to me and the Dyson team but we've already proved it to be fast in testing and the Mazda engine is performing exceptionally well. We will be at Sebring to win and having led outright last year, I feel we can be up there fighting again but we need to be smart and run at our own 'comfortable' pace.”
Smith goes on to claim that the bumpy, twisty nature of the Sebring airfield circuit means it is more challenging than the legendary Le Mans circuit.
“Sebring is tougher than Le Mans in some respects. Although it's half the duration, the track is much bumpier and tougher on all areas of the car – suspension, brakes and gearbox for example.
“Also from a driver's point of view, there are no long straights to rest – unlike the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans – so you really are thrown around, despite being belted in tightly, and therefore take quite a physical beating.
“Additionally, this year I'm driving a Coupé – a car with a roof – for the first time for a number of years. It's hotter in the cockpit than an 'open' car so I've adjusted my training. I've been taking longer runs with lots of layers of clothes on to get used to working in the heat. I have also been building up my heat tolerance in the sauna.”