SMP Racing has announced Stoffel Vandoorne as their third driver in the #11 BR1 prototype for the upcoming 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Stoffel Vandoorne will replace Brendon Hartley, who was initially announced for Spa, and Jenson Button, who was believed to be back in the BR1 at Le Mans. He will join Mikhail Aleshin and Vitalky Petrov in the #11 BR1. Rumours are going round about Hartley getting a drive at Toyota next year if Alonso leaves the team, at Le Mans he is already tied to RLR Msport in the LMP2 class. Hartley agreed to give way to Vandoorne in order to let him and the team be better prepared for the 24 hours race in June.

The semi-talented Belgian driver won the GP2 title in 2015 before achieving nothing with McLaren in Formula for 2 seasons from 2017 to 2018 alongside Fernando Alonso. Vandoorne now races in the Formula E championship with HWA Racelab and is one of the simulator drivers for the Mercedes FA team, scoring his and the teams’ first pole position in the series in Hong Kong and his first podium in Rome last weekend.

Stoffel Vandoorne said: “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. 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.”

SMP Racing driver Vitaly Petrov said: “I understand the decision of Jenson and I wish him and his family all the best. Our SMP Racing Team now needs a driver who will be able to successfully drive in the final two rounds of the FIA WEC and I’m happy that Stoffel has joined us. The race in Spa-Francorchamps will help him to get used to the championship and to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I hope he will adapt quickly and we will support him along the way”

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SMP Racing driver Mikhail Aleshin also commented: “I welcome Stoffel to our team. He is a professional of the highest class and has a good experience, including in Formula 1, where he drove for the McLaren Team. It is great that Stoffel will spend with us several races. We thank Brendon who helped our team to finish on the podium at Sebring. Brendon drove perfectly and his input into the work on the BR1 was very valuable”

There are more changes due in the entry list for the upcoming 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. More about that in an upcoming article next week.

Kristof Vermeulen.