Stoffel Vandoorne says enjoying a clean 24 Hours of Le Mans while leaning on his experienced SMP Racing teammates Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin were key to his podium on debut.

The Belgian driver replaced Jenson Button at the Russian LMP1 squad for the final two rounds of the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship and following a debut rostrum at last month’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps the former McLaren F1 driver has doubled it up with third place at his rookie 24 Horus of Le Mans.

Despite falling behind the #3 Rebellion Racing cars and the sister #17 SMP Racing early on, the #11 kept clear of trouble to gradually climb the order once Egor Orudzhev crashed out for the Russian squad during the night and the #3 Rebellion hit mechanical problems.

Having adapted to endurance racing with ease, taking a 100% podium record, Vandoorne reveals how bedding in at the Russian squad and learning from his co-drivers who have four starts at Le Mans each was vital to his podium charge.

“We are very happy as it was a very difficult race, we had some good pace when it mattered as we had some tough fights on track,” Vandoorne said. “I think we stayed out of trouble which was the main target for us.

“They made me feel at home straightaway. Vitaly and Mikhail they received me very well in the team and they gave me all the information I needed to be successful at Le Mans. This is how we managed to do it, stayed out of trouble and we made sure we didn’t make mistakes which is exactly what we did.”

Having relished his first experience at Le Mans, Vandoorne signalled his intention to return in the future.

“I am very happy with my first experience at Le Mans and I hope I can be back at some point and have another shot a fighting for victory,” he said.

Vandoorne will focus on Formula E for the remainder of 2019 racing for HWA Racelab alongside his Mercedes F1 simulator duties.

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