After just one year in the series, SMP Racing announced today that they would take no further part in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and have withdrawn themselves from the 2019/20 season.
The Russian team wrapped up the season at last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, claiming third on the overall podium with Stoffel Vandoorne, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin. During the 2018/19 WEC season, they secured five podium finishes out of the eight races, taking fourth in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship with Petrov and Aleshin and third in the LMP1 Manufacturers’ Championship.
A definitive reason for why SMP Racing have decided to drop out of the 2019/20 season just two weeks before the Prologue has not been said, but a press release from the team suggests that they feel they have scored the best possible result they can given the current state and circumstances in the LMP1 class.
“For us it was a difficult season,” Founder of SMP Racing Boris Rotenberg said. “Our goal has always been only a victory, and we believe that we achieved this victory with the highest possible result in the given circumstances.
“As a result, we were able to show and prove to everyone that the Russian team, Russian drivers and the Russian car are capable of achieving the highest results in the most difficult world championships and in such a prestigious race as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a well-deserved success of everyone who participated in this ambitious project – drivers, SMP Racing and ART GP, BR Engineering and Dallara.
“After the final race at Le Mans we decided that SMP Racing will leave the FIA WEC.”
With ByKolles Racing Team and DragonSpeed announcing they would not be racing full season in LMP1 next year ahead of the end of the season – with ByKolles set to return to a select few races throughout the season – SMP’s departure drops the provisional 2019/20 LMP1 field to six cars. Ginetta‘s return to WEC not yet confirmed, so it could be that only Toyota Gazoo Racing and Rebellion Racing return to the field next season.
With the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and FIA hoping to entice more manufacturers to the top class of the WEC ahead of the ‘HyperCar’ 2020/21 regulations, a reduction in the front-running class will not be what the organisers were hoping for.