Button withdraws from Le Mans, Vandoorne replaces him

Stoffel Vandoorne will contest the final two races of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship season with the SMP Racing LMP1 team, replacing Jenson Button at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Button withdraws from Le Mans, Vandoorne replaces him

Ex-McLaren Formula 1 racer and current HWA Formula E driver Vandoorne will also take Brendon Hartley’s seat for next month’s Spa 6 Hours prior to the Le Mans season finale in June.

He’ll partner Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in SMP’s #11 BR Engineering BR1-AER for both races. The line-up for the sister #17 car, comprising Stephane Sarrazin, Sergey Sirotkin and Egor Orudzhev, remains unchanged.

The change stems from Button’s withdrawal from what would have been his second outing at Le Mans, partly because of a desire to spend more time with fiancée Brittny Ward and also because of the inability of the privateer LMP1s to challenge the dominant Toyotas.

Button said: "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 fiancée 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.”

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Brendon Hartley

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Brendon Hartley

Photo by: Paul Foster

SMP originally offered the Le Mans drive to Hartley, but the New Zealander refused because he has another commitment for the French classic, believed to be a reserve role for the Toyota LMP1 team

Because there is no other opportunity for Vandoorne to test the BR1 prior to Le Mans – he is unavailable for a private SMP test in Spain – Hartley agreed to step aside to allow the Belgian to race at Spa.

“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 Le Mans 24 Hours," said Vandoorne.

"The LMP1 cars are really demanding and their performances are very close to Formula 1. 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."

Vandoorne was previously in line for the seat in the #11 line-up vacated by Button for last month’s Sebring 1000 Miles and Spa round due to the Englishman’s Super GT commitments with Honda, before the team settled on ex-Toro Rosso F1 driver Hartley as a replacement.

Button contested a further three WEC races last year after retiring from his Le Mans debut with engine problems, taking a best finish of third alongside Petrov and Aleshin at Shanghai.

Rossiter out, Ruberti in at ByKolles

One other change in the LMP1 line-up for the Spa race is the addition of Paolo Ruberti to the ByKolles squad. The Italian will share the ENSO CLM P1/01, which will be making its first outing with a Gibson power unit, with team regulars Oliver Webb and Tom Dillmann.

James Rossiter partnered Webb and Dillmann for last year's Fuji and Shanghai races but is unavailable for Spa as he is racing in Super GT at Fuji for Nissan on the same weekend.

#4 ByKolles Racing Team Enso CLM P1/01: Oliver Webb, James Rossiter, Tom Dillmann

#4 ByKolles Racing Team Enso CLM P1/01: Oliver Webb, James Rossiter, Tom Dillmann

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

shares
comments
McLaren wary of "chicken-and-egg" scenario with WEC

Previous article

McLaren wary of "chicken-and-egg" scenario with WEC

Next article

Ganassi sportscar program to continue with or without Ford

Ganassi sportscar program to continue with or without Ford
Load comments

About this article

Series Le Mans , WEC
Drivers Jenson Button , Stoffel Vandoorne
Teams SMP Racing
Author Jamie Klein
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020