The Englishman, part of Yamaha's winning factory team at the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours EWC round, has signed to race for the Yamaha-powered MOTO AIN privateer team alongside Claudio Corti and Corentin Perolari.

Smith took the first of his 25 grand prix podiums, in the 125cc class, at the same Le Mans circuit in 2007.

“I’ve been racing from a young age and for the past two decades, I've been focused on reaching MotoGP, which is the ultimate racing championship,” said 31-year-old Smith, who last raced in MotoGP during the 2020 season with Aprilia.

“I am pretty happy with what I have achieved, but as a true lover of motorcycle racing, I also look around for other competitions.

"The 24 Heures Motos is one of the most famous endurance races around the world and the idea of racing for 24 hours non-stop seems to be a bit crazy if I'm honest.

"Last winter, when Pierre [Chapuis, team director] presented this opportunity to race at Le Mans, it caught my curiosity and I thought, ‘why not’?

"We have done several tests in Spain and the lap times were encouraging. The technical base of the Yamaha R1 is good, even if we miss some factory parts compared to our rivals."

Smith, who is also competing in the FIM MotoE World Cup this year, added: "Fortunately, I’ve found some room in my diary, and I'm excited for this challenge.

"I'm sure it will be tough but also nice to experience the event for the first time. Even if I already know the track from racing in the French Grand Prix, everything else is going to be new for me.”

Chapuis said: “We have a very good trio of riders for the 24 Heures Motos. In the first tests the three riders lapped in the same second and all have a good rhythm. This allows us to develop the bike settings for all three riders at the same time. It's very positive.

“We remain on the proven basis of the Yamaha R1 of last year. We know that we are lacking in pure performance, but with our limited resources as a private team, we have to make choices, and I prefer to bet on our strengths, which are consistency and reliability.

"We can't wait to see what it can do on the track."

Following the April 14-17 EWC event, Smith will have one weekend off before the MotoE season kicks off during the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez on April 30.