SMP Racing has announced that former Peugeot and Toyota LMP1 factory driver Stephane Sarrazin is set to join the team during the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ to drive one of its BR1 AER LMP1s.
This move marks Sarrazin’s first drive since departing Toyota Gazoo Racing at the end of the 2017 season; he had been with the Japanese factory team since the inception of its WEC LMP1 program back in 2012.
“I am pleased to welcome Stephane into the ranks of SMP Racing,” said Boris Rothenberg, founder and head of the SMP Racing program.
“He is a truly universal driver, who will take on his 17th and 18th Le Mans under the Russian flag. I am sure that the invaluable experience gained by him in Toyota, who fought desperately for the absolute championship for more than one year, will help us in the debut in the category LMP1 on the Russian prototype BR Engineering. The first results of teamwork we can evaluate in three weeks, during the tests in France.”
It’s also Sarrazin’s return to full-time FIA WEC competition. The 42-year-old moved into a reserve driver role at Toyota in 2017, competing in just one race for the team at Circuit of The Americas as a fill-in for Anthony Davidson (the team’s reserve driver for 2018/19).
“It’s great that I joined the SMP Racing team this season,” said Sarrazan. “This is a new challenge and an excellent experience for me after six seasons of working with Toyota. With SMP Racing, I have known them for a long time – this is a strong and experienced team. And I am convinced that we will achieve all the goals set by speaking on the new BR1 car of the LMP1 class.
“To do this, I will put all my strength, all my positive attitude and accumulated experience.”
During his time at Toyota, Sarrazin made 42 race starts in the WEC, scoring three poles and three wins. Hisatake Murata, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s team president, thanked him for his contributions to the brand in a statement.
“Stephane is one of our original Le Mans drivers from 2012 so we have experienced many emotions together,” he said. “He brought experience and determination to our project, contributing significantly to the development of our team and technology.
“For this we sincerely thank him and wish him well for the future. We are looking forward to competing with Stephane again in WEC this season, which we expect to be an exciting one for endurance fans.”
With this news, the Frenchman becomes SMP Racing’s third confirmed full-time WEC driver, after the Russian outfit revealed that ex-F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and former IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin would compete in the upcoming season, by naming them in on the full-season WEC entry.