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SMP Ends WEC Program; LMP1 Field Drops to Six Cars

SMP Racing withdraws from 2019-20 WEC season, LMP1 field drops to six cars maximum…

Photo: SMP Racing

SMP Racing won’t return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2019-20 season, with the Russian team confirming its surprise departure from the LMP1 ranks.

In a statement released on Monday morning, SMP founder Boris Rotenberg revealed that he feels that the team made the most of a difficult situation in LMP1 during the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’.

“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,” he said.

“After the final race at Le Mans we decided that SMP Racing will leave the FIA WEC. Our team will not race in 2019-2020 season.”

It’s understood the team was dissatisfied with the returns of its investment to fight for overall wins last season, with Toyota finishing 1-2 in all but two of the eight races.

The news comes as a surprise with SMP having placed two entry requests for the 2019-20 campaign, which gets underway at Silverstone in September following the Prologue later this month.

It had two BR Engineering BR1 AERs on the provisional full-season entry list, released last month at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The team’s highlight came with its third-place finish at Le Mans last month, where it finished as the best-placed non-hybrid team.

“For us it was a difficult season,” added Rotenberg. “We worked a lot on our BR1 prototype.

“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.”

The withdrawal of SMP’s entries reduces the LMP1 field to six cars, with two-car program each from Toyota Gazoo Racing, Rebellion Racing and Team LNT.

Rebellion CEO Calim Bouhadra told Sportscar365 that his team could scale back to a single-car entry for the full season, with a second car being added just for Le Mans.

The status of LNT’s entries is unclear, meanwhile, with little word on the Ginetta LMP1 program since the demise of the CEFC TRSM program last year, although it’s believed the LNT program is likely.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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