Stoffel Vandoorne is set to make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this year with the SMP Racing team after former McLaren F1 stablemate Jenson Button chose to step aside owing to family commitments.

2009 F1 World Champion Button had been due to make his second appearance in the round-the-clock classic this season, despite earlier cutting back on his World Endurance Championship commitments with the Russian-backed outfit.

However, Button has now opted to withdraw altogether in order to concentrate on his fiancé’s pregnancy and the birth of their first child during the two-week Le Mans event period.

“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.”

In his place comes Vandoorne, who will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut alongside Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the #11 BR1 LMP1 machine, prepared by several members of the ART Grand Prix team that masterminded his dominant 2016 GP2 Series title win.

The Belgian will make his first WEC appearance on home soil in the upcoming Spa 6 Hours in place of Brendon Hartley, who has made way for the Vandoorne to allow him more seat time

“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.”

A 15-time F1 grand prix winner, Button made his much anticipated Le Mans 24 Hours debut in 2018 with SMP Racing but saw his high-profile outing dogged by persistent mechanical issues prior to an eventual retirement after 315 laps. Going on to compete with SMP Racing across the 2018-2019 WEC 'Super Season', despite Toyota's sheer dominance of the LMP1 class, Button joined Aleshin and Petrov in securing SMP Racing's maiden WEC podium in Shanghai before his decsion to skip Sebring and Spa, and now Le Mans.

Vandoorne - who also replaced Button at the McLaren-Honda F1 team in 2017 - comes to SMP Racing and the WEC on a high after last week securing his maiden podium result in the Formula E Championship. His first significant success since exiting the McLaren Racing F1 team at the end of the 2018 season, Vandoorne is tipped to head up Mercedes EQ's maiden foray into Formula E next season.

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