Ex-Peugeot and Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Stephane Sarrazin will join SMP Racing for the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship as the team return to the grid as a full season entry.
SMP were absent as a full season team in 2017. This year, they will run two of the BR Engineering BR1 AERs privateer LMP1 cars for all nine rounds of the WEC. The driver pairings have yet to be confirmed by the team, but Sarrazin is the third driver to have been confirmed for the two-car line-up. Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov will also race under the SMP banner this season.
“I’m pleased to welcome Stephane to the ranks of SMP Racing,” said SMP Racing’s team founder, Boris Rotenberg. “He is a truly universal, fighting driver who will take part in his 17th and 18th editions of Le Mans under the Russian flag.
“I’m sure that the invaluable experience he gained at Toyota… will help us in our debut in the LMP1 category with the BR Engineering Russian prototype.”
Sarrazin has a rich LMP1 racing history, having been brought into the Toyota racing program back in 2012. He has competed in thirty-seven WEC events which included three victories and two 24 Hours of Le Mans podiums. He brings an in-depth understanding of the class and a lot of experience with him to the Russian team.
“This is a new challenge and an excellent experience for me after six seasons of working with Toyota,” Sarrazin said. “With SMP Racing, I have known for a long time, this is a strong and experienced team. And I am convinced that we will achieve all the goals set with this new BR1 car of the LMP1 class.
“To do this, I will put [in] all my strength, all my positive attitude and accumulated experience.”
After not being able to obtain a race seat at Toyota, the manufacturer released a statement that said the Frenchman had ‘chosen to leave’ the team. It appears the separation was not with bad blood as the following statement by Toyota Gazoo Racing team president, Hisatake Murata, was released.
“Stephane is one of our original Le Mans drivers from 2012 so we have experienced many emotions together. He brought experience and determination to our project, contributing significantly to the development of our team and technology.
“For this we sincerely thank him and wish him well for the future. We are looking forward to competing with Stephane again in WEC this season, which we expect to be an exciting one for endurance fans.”