Briton Guy Smith begins his duties as official test driver for Team Bentley next week, when he joins three-day endurance test at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France.

The 27-year old, who raced for the team at last year's Le Mans 24 Hours, will not be racing for the team in the 2002 event following its decision to run just one car. He has, however, been retained as test and development driver, and will act as reserve should anything happen to the three regular pilots.

Smith had previously planned to take part in this year's Le Mans race with the Jim Matthews Racing Riley&Scott he has been campaign in the ALMS and Grand-Am series in the USA, but his role as reserve driver for Team Bentley will prevent his participation in the event, which takes place on 15-16 June.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed not be racing in this year's Le Mans, either for Bentley or Jim Matthews," Smith said, "But, in the circumstances, I feel the testing role I've been asked to undertake for Team Bentley must be my priority.

"I'm sure that the reliability already proven by the Riley&Scott would have enabled us to have a very strong finish in the race, but my position within the Bentley team requires me to be present at the event for them and that is what my decision has been based on."

Smith travels to Paul Ricard over the weekend for three days of testing at the French circuit beginning on Monday. Extensive endurance testing will be carried out prior to the classic sportscar event, which produced a podium finish for one of the two Bentleys entered last season.