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WEC - Jenson Button: A Homegrown Hero


Jenson Button may be most famous for his Formula 1 world title back in 2009, but there’s no doubting he’s a bona fide sportscar driver now as he gears up for his home round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone on Sunday 19 August.

The former Honda, Brawn and McLaren driver made headlines at the start of the year when it was revealed he had penned a deal to contest the entire 2018-19 WEC Super Season with the SMP Racing LMP1 team, joining Russian duo Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov in one of the brand-new BR Engineering BR1-AERs.

Having stepped away from F1 full-time after the 2016 season, Button made his first real foray into sportscar racing last year when he entered the Suzuka 1000km Super GT race, sharing a Team Mugen Honda NSX with Daisuke Nakajima and Hideki Mutoh. 

Off the back of that, he signed up for a full season in the Japanese series with the Kunimitsu Honda squad – he currently lies third in the points – which he is fitting in around his new FIA WEC commitments.

Recalling how he ended up putting pen to paper with SMP Racing, Button said it was via the recommendation of former ByKolles Racing driver and Japanese racing veteran James Rossiter.

“I’ve always wanted to race [at Le Mans]; for every driver it’s always very special,” said Button. “It was actually through a friend with mine, who was testing with ByKolles in Portimão, James Rossiter. 

“He said, ‘the BR1 looks quick, you should see if there’s a seat available’. It’s great to have the opportunity to drive these cars, because they are so fast. For privateers to be able to do 3m18s or 3m19s lap times around Le Mans is fantastic.”

Button got his very first taste of the BR1 in a shakedown at Magny Cours in May, before being thrown in at the deep end at the Le Mans test day and the race itself in June. Early electronic issues dropped the #11 car down the order however before it was finally forced out of the race in the final hour with engine problem.

Despite his impressive achievements in F1, Button’s hasn’t always had the best success at Silverstone with his best finishes being a trio of fourth places in 2004 (with BAR), 2010 and 2014 (both with McLaren).

His first-ever WEC start on home soil will therefore offer Button an opportunity to do something he never managed in F1: stand on the podium in front of his adoring public.