Following a promising rookie season in IndyCar, Mikhail Aleshin is set for a switch to sports car racing full-time in 2015, with the Russian confirmed as one of the drivers for SMP Racing’s LMP2 effort in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 27-year-old SMP-backed driver, who finished 16th in his first season of IndyCar competition with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, will not return to the open-wheel ranks, with SMP Racing team principal Sergey Zlobin citing economical issues due to the recent collapse of the Russian economy in an interview with Web site, sportbox.ru.
However, the team’s sports car efforts will continue in 2015, as the Russian squad looks to defend its LMP2 World Championship with a pair of brand-new BR01 prototypes, alongside an expected single-car Ferrari F458 Italia entry in GTE-Am.
“It’s complicated for Mikhail to sign a contact in IndyCar this year,” Zlobin told sportsbox.ru. “It takes a lot of [resources] and he will take a hiatus, unfortunately.
“However, Mikhail will go for the top prize in the FIA WEC in LMP2, where he will pilot the [Russian] car we are building now.
“Hopefully we can win the championship with the [Russian] machine, and God willing, the economic situation will stabilize and Mikhail can go back to Indy in 2016.”
Aleshin missed the IndyCar season finale at Fontana due to a serious accident in practice, where he sustained a broken right clavicle, fractured ribs, a concussion and chest injuries that kept him in the hospital for more than two weeks.
He’s since recovered from the injuries and is expected to begin testing shortly.
Despite having told Sportscar365 his plans to move to the GTE-Am class next year, reigning LMP2 champion Zlobin admits he hasn’t made a final decision on whether he will continue driving in 2015.
“I don’t know where I’m going,” he said. “I’m almost 45 years old and this is perhaps the right time to leave. I was not going to drive in 2014. I hung up my helmet eight or ten years ago but I decided to come back because my help was needed.
“We started the SMP Racing program with my son Nikita. Over time, it’s grown into a large-scale program… If the team needs me, I will continue.”
While Zlobin contemplates his future, BR Engineering is putting the final touches on the new BR01, which is expected to break cover in the coming months ahead of the FIA WEC season.
Nicolas Minassian, Mika Salo and Maurizio Mediani are also expected to be part of SMP’s lineup in LMP2 this year.