Ex-F1 racer Brendon Hartley will make his FIA World Endurance Championship return with SMP Racing for the rounds in Sbering and Spa-Francorchamps.

After being dropped by Toro Rosso at the end of the 2018 F1 season, Hartley has secured a sportscar racing return with Russian outfit SMP Racing where he will drive the #11 BR Engineering BR1 as a replacement to Jenson Button for the two rounds.

The Kiwi will race in 1000 Miles of Sebring as well as the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps alongside Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin with the #17 SMP Racing car to be driven by Stephane Sarrazin, Egor Ourdzhev and Sergey Sirotkin.

“I am very pleased to join SMP Racing in the two upcoming FIA WEC races in Sebring and Spa,” said Hartley. “The team has a good technique and a great composition of the pilots, so I think we will have a great opportunity to compete for the podiums.

“This means my return to the WEC, and I’m really looking forward to being able to be back in the paddock, where there are so many familiar faces.” This will be the Kiwi’s first LMP1 run in the WEC outside of Porsche and his first since 2017.

SMP Racing founder Boris Rotenberg said: “Greetings to Brendon as part of our SMP Racing crew. He is a very experienced and successful racer – he twice won the World Endurance Championship, became the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We are sure that together our guys will make a great contribution to our future victories. I think it will be interesting for Brandon to drive behind the wheel of our new Russian sport prototype BR1 and compete with rivals in the highest class LMP1.”

Hartley’s teammate Aleshin said: “We are pleased to welcome Brendon to the SMP Racing team. I think Hartley will be a great addition to our team. He is an experienced pilot, took part in different types of competitions.

“Brendon successfully performed in the youth series, and I fully believe that his potential was fully revealed in endurance races – he won this championship in the overall standings. His participation in Formula 1, I think, is also certainly a positive fact, including for us, because it means that a very experienced pilot will go with us.”

Petrov added: “This is great news for the entire SMP Racing team. Brandon has a lot of experience and many victories in the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Marathon.

“He played for the legendary Porsche brand, worked with strong pilots. Therefore, I think he will be able to suggest something interesting to us, so that we can add to the development of our sport prototype BR1. Brendon, welcome to SMP Racing.”

This is Hartley’s first competitive deal after F1 with a contract to be a Ferrari simulator driver for 2019 already in place. Meanwhile, Rebellion Racing has called Mathias Beche as Andre Lotter’s replacement for Sebring in the #1 car to join Neel Jani and Bruno Senna.

[Read: Sergey Sirotkin to race in WEC for three rounds]