Stoffel Vandoorne will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in June as he takes the seat of Jenson Button in the #11 SMP Racing LMP1 car after the Brit decided to miss the race.
Button explained to Crash.net that his fiancé is due to give birth to his first child during the Le Mans-race period, and he has chosen to stay home with his family rather than take part in the round-the-clock race.
“I decided to withdraw from the FIA WEC for the 2019 Le Mans race,” 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 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.”
Former McLaren F1 stablemate, Vandoorne, will take the Brit’s seat for the prestigious race, and will also replace Brendon Hartley for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in May in preparation for the 24-hour event.
“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.” Vandoorne stated. “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.”
Whether Hartley will appear at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is unclear, but he has been liked to a reserve seat at Toyota Gazoo Racing.