F1 and Formula E racer Stoffel Vandoorne will make his World Endurance Championship debut with Russian team SMP Racing at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 4 and for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, replacing Jenson Button in the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1-AER LMP1 prototype.
Former F1 world champion Button says he has stepped aside for personal reasons…although he hinted that the team’s level of competitiveness also played a role in his decision.
“I decided to withdraw from the FIA WEC for the 2019 Le Mans race. I really enjoyed driving for SMP Racing and was happy to be on the podium with this team, but I decided that now I need to spend more time at home with my fiancé during her pregnancy rather than two weeks at Le Mans,” Button said. “The decision has been made easier for me as I feel that the Toyota is currently unbeatable.”
When he partners with Russian teammates Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin at Spa, Vandoorne will be one of only two Belgians racing on home soil.
“I am very pleased to join SMP Racing and drive the BR1 №11 prototype in my home race in Spa-Francorchamps and in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Vandoorne (pictured between Aleshin and Petrov). “The LMP1 cars are really demanding and their performances are very close to Formula 1. I will have the opportunity to rejoin ART Grand Prix and a lot of people that I’ve been working with during my successful campaign in GP2.
“Also, it´s great to work alongside such experienced drivers as Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin. My objective is to contribute to the team’s performance and work in collaboration with all drivers to develop the BR1 prototype and to make a good impression.”