SMP Racing names Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin for LMP1 assault

SMP Racing has confirmed ex-Formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov and IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin as the first two drivers for its 2018-19 World Endurance Championship LMP1 bid.

57-time grand prix starter Petrov (Renault and Caterham) joins the Russian entry after spending last season with Manor TRS Racing in the WEC LMP2 category.

Aleshin drove an SMP-entered Dallara LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours to dovetail a part-campaign in IndyCar with Scmidt Peterson Motorsports.

For 2018, SMP Racing has partnered with renowned French single seater outfit ART Grand Prix to run a pair of BR1 prototypes that have been co-developed by BRE Engineering and Dallara.

The car first tested in October last year, and has since completed runs at Navarra in Spain with Petrov, Aleshin and Formula V8 3.5 drivers Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev behind the wheel.

Petrov first drove for SMP in 2016, when he completed a WEC campaign with Viktor Shaitar and Kiril Ladygin in a BR01-Nissan prototype, which was the predecessor to this year's LMP1 offering.

Aleshin, meanwhile, has been one of the organisation's longest-serving drivers, having started in 2013 behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 GT3 in the Blancpain series.

SMP Racing used Thursday's announcement to also reval Shaitar as the first nominated driver for its 2018 European Le Mans Series entry with a Dallara-Gibson LMP2.

"The upcoming season will be challenging for us, and I'm sure it will be spectacular for Russian fans," said Boris Rothenberg, founder of SMP Racing.

"For the first time in the history of the World Endurance Championship, Russian pilots will perform in the highest class - LMP1 - in Russian cars."

"Our drivers not only have the experience of piloting prototypes, but also participated in the development of this machine and know it, as they say, 'inside out'."

"I invite all motorsport fans to support our Russian team, our Russian pilots and our Russian car!"

The full WEC and Le Mans entry lists will be released tomorrow (February 9th) at 15:00 CET/14:00 UK.