Wednesday 24 October 2018

Button to take on Alonso at Le Mans

Jenson Button has secured a drive at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with the Russian-backed SMP Racing
Jenson Button has secured a drive at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with the Russian-backed SMP Racing

Jack de Menezes

Jenson Button will take on former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso after securing a drive at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours with the Russian-backed SMP Racing outfit.

The 2009 Formula One world champion will compete in the legendary endurance race alongside former Renault driver Vitaly Petrov and fellow Russian Mikhail Aleshin on the weekend of June 16 and 17, giving him the opportunity to tackle the Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time in his career.

With SMP Racing stepping up to the Le Mans Prototype 1 [LMP1] category for the first time this year, Button will be in direct competition with former team-mate Alonso, who will be competing for the first time himself this year with the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing team.

"As you can imagine it has been a dream of mine to race at Le Mans," Button said. "It is every driver's dream to go on and clinch that win and I am no different. My team-mates for this year will be Mikhail and Vitaly Petrov, who I know very well from Formula One.

"With those two and all the experience we have from different types of racing, and the team's experience in endurance racing, we go to Le Mans to fight for the win."

flood Button has been racing in Japan this season in the Super GT championship, having retired from F1 at the end of the 2016 season, and he continues the recent flood of grand prix drivers to attempt Le Mans following Alonso's move into endurance racing and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who won at Le Mans with Porsche back in 2015. The German partnered by New Zealander Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, who remains the last British driver to win the prestigious race.

Having grown used to two-hour 'sprints' in F1, Button will need to adapt to the longer format motorsport, but he is already fully aware of the shift in focus towards consistency and reliability rather than the outright pace needed to win grand prix.

"We've a really good chance of being competitive at Le Mans," Button added. "First of all it's survival, and then you see where you are after the 24 hours - hopefully we're fighting for victory."

The presence of Petrov and Aleshin is no surprise given the team's Russian roots, with the team founded by billionaire Boris Rotenberg, whose brother Arkady is a close confidant of Vladimir Putin. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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