Vanwall to replace Villeneuve with Vautier at Le Mans

Vanwall to replace Villeneuve with Vautier at Le Mans

Villeneuve is no longer on Vanwall’s driver lineup for Le Mans as Vautier is set to replace him making Hypercar debut.

Tristan Vautier has replaced 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in the Floyd Vanwall Racing Team’s driver roster for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The team announced on Thursday that Villeneuve, who competed in the first three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship season in the Hypercar class, will not be racing in the fourth event scheduled to take place at Le Mans.

The Canadian’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) career got off to a difficult start with incidents involving two different AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos during the Prologue test at Sebring and the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as well as a crash following a brake explosion at Portimao.

The ByKolles-run team’s decision to change its lineup is said to have been influenced by those incidents as well as Villeneuve’s insufficient track time.

“The situation is that we don’t feel that he [Villeneuve] is ready to go to Le Mans,” Kolles said in an interview with Sportscar365. “His wife is pregnant and they are expecting the baby now, at the beginning of June.

“Le Mans is a big race… We cannot take the risk. For personal reasons and due to the fact that also the mileage is lacking, we decided to have a new driver which will be Tristan Vautier.”

Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerrieri, who raced alongside Villeneuve in the first three WEC events, will share the No. 4 Vanwall Vandervell 680 Gibson with Vautier.

Vautier has competed in many IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races and won the 2021 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with JDC-Miller Motorsports.

The French driver made his Le Mans debut last year in the same class with ARC Bratislava. He currently races with Algarve Pro Racing in the European Le Mans Series LMP2 Pro-Am class. Vautier will line up in his debut race with the ByKolles team and in an LMH car at the 100th anniversary edition of Le Mans on June 10–11.

“We met in Sebring and then we were thinking about options,” said Kolles. “I think this is the best choice for us at the moment.

“We need a solid result… This is the target… You never know what happens, obviously, but it’s my job to minimize the risks.”

Former DTM racer Esteban Muth serves as Vanwall’s backup driver, but Kolles said the team prefers to have a more seasoned driver lineup for Le Mans.

Kolles said that despite Villeneuve’s inclusion on the provisional entry list for the 6 Hours of Monza, the Vanwall team is now only confirmed for Le Mans.

Villeneuve and the team recently took part in a three-day test at the Italian circuit, which was also attended by Ferrari AF Corse and Porsche Penske Motorsport.

Vautier is scheduled to drive the Vandervell 680 for the first time on June 4 which will be Le Mans’ official test day.

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