Stoffel Vandoorne replaces Jenson Button at SMP Racing for Spa and Le Mans
Stoffel Vandoorne will compete in the final two rounds of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season, replacing Brendon Hartley at the 6 Hours of Spa and Jenson Button for the 24 Hours of Le Mans at SMP Racing.
Vandoorne, 27, previously drove for McLaren in Formula 1 from 2017-2018 before embarking on a full-time Formula E campaign with HWA Racelab for the series' fifth season of competition and will make his sports car debut at Spa on May 4.
Hartley, who was due to race at the 6 Hours of Spa with SMP Racing, agreed to let Vandoorne take his seat for the penultimate round of the 2018/19 campaign to allow for the Belgian to be better prepared for the iconic 24-hour race on one of motorsport's most demanding circuits.
Vandoorne will join the #11 crew of Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, driving SMP's BR Engineering BR1-AER LMP1 entry while the lineup of the sister #12 car remains unchanged.
“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.
"The LMP1 cars are really demanding and their performances are very close to Formula 1. I will have the opportunity to re-join 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.”
Button, who was due to pilot the #11 car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time, pinned his absence from the 2019 running of the event to the status of his fiancé Brittny Ward during her pregnancy, while highlighting Toyota's current dominance in LMP1 as another reason not to race:
“I decided to withdraw from the FIA WEC for the 2019 Le Mans race," said the 2009 F1 champion.
"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.
"The decision has been made easier for me as I feel that the Toyota is currently unbeatable.”
After six rounds, the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima lead in the LMP1 Drivers' Championship while Toyota also heads the Constructors' Standings with SMP Racing holding third, 80 points adrift of the Japanese manufacturer.