April 27, 2018 / 10:40 AM / 23 days ago

Formula One: Button to race next two Le Mans 24 Hours with Russian team

(Reuters) - Britain’s 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year and next for Russia’s SMP Racing team in the top LMP1 category, they announced on Friday.

Formula One - F1 - Italian Grand Prix 2016 - Monza, Italy - 01/9/16 - Jenson Button of Britain smiles during the news conference. REUTERS/Max Rossi Picture Supplied by Action Images

Button, who left Formula One in 2016 but made a one-off comeback in Monaco last year, will do the full World Endurance (WEC) season, competing against former McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso at Le Mans.

Double world champion Alonso is combining his Formula One duties with a full WEC season for Toyota as part of his bid for the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ that includes the Indianapolis 500, which he has yet to win.

This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours is on June 16-17.

SMP said Button, 38, would share a Dallara-designed BR1 prototype car with Russian former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to race at Le Mans,” the veteran of 306 grands prix said on the SMP website. “I think it’s every driver’s dream to take part and hopefully go on to clinch that win at Le Mans.

“We go to Le Mans to fight for the win...I think that we really do have a good chance of being competitive at Le Mans,” he added.

SMP team founder and head is oligarch Boris Rotenberg, whose billionaire brother Arkady is a former judo partner of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in Baku, editing by Toby Davis

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