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Villeneuve ends WEC campaign with Vanwall after being dropped for Le Mans

Jacques Villeneuve has withdrawn from the remainder of his planned World Endurance Championship campaign with Vanwall Racing squad after being dropped for next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

#4 Floyd Vanwall Racing Team Vanwall Vandervell 680: Jacques Villeneuve

The 1997 Formula 1 world champion explained in a statement issued on Wednesday that he had yet to receive any communication from the team regarding last week’s announcement that Tristan Vautier would be joining the Hypercar class squad in his place.

Villeneuve, 52, expressed disappointment with the former ByKolles team’s decision to bring in Vautier to share the Vanwall-Gibson 680 Le Mans Hypercar with Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerrieri at the double-points WEC round on 10/11 June and pointed out that he remained under contract with the team.

He concluded his communication by saying that he would not be returning to the team for any further races this year.

“To date, I have not received any official communication from the team, which is even more surprising given that I am still under contract to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours,” he said.

“The timing of the release strangely coincided with my impending arrival at the hospital for the birth of our baby daughter, which had been planned for 26 May [the day after the team’s announcement of Vautier].

“ByKolles was well aware of this personal family event, rendering me unable to respond or address this sudden announcement.”

Villeneuve explained that his preparation for Le Mans “was meticulous and well-organised” and that considerable time and effort were dedicated to achieving peck physical and mental readiness for this extraordinary challenge”.

“Following victories in the Indy 500, Indycar [CART] and the F1 championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours holds special significance for me,” he continued.

“Consequently, I am deeply disheartened that the opportunity to participate has been unjustly and arbitrarily denied.

“Under these circumstances, I have made the decision to abstain from participating in the remainder of the WEC season with Bykolles.

#4 Floyd Vanwall Racing Team Vanwall Vandervell 680: Tom Dillmann, Esteban Guerrieri, Jacques Villeneuve

#4 Floyd Vanwall Racing Team Vanwall Vandervell 680: Tom Dillmann, Esteban Guerrieri, Jacques Villeneuve

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

“Instead, I will redirect my focus and energies towards preparing for a more successful and professionally fulfilling 2024 racing season."

Vanwall team boss Colin Kolles has insisted that the decision to bring in a replacement for Le Mans was made with the full agreement of Villeneuve.

He told Autosport earlier this week that the reasoning for bringing in Vautier was twofold: a lack of mileage on the part of Villeneuve in the Vanwall and a the impending birth of his latest child.

He also suggested that Villenueve remained in line to return to the Vanwall squad at the Monza WEC round in July, pending a final decision after Le Mans.

Autosport has since seen email evidence that claims that Villeneuve made the decision to quit the Vanwall programme ahead of the announcement of Vautier.

The email is dated after a three-day test at Monza for the 680 in which Villeneuve drove on the opening day before his team-mates took over.

It was Villeneuve's first proper test in the car, which he only briefly sampled late last year at Barcelona prior to the start of his season’s WEC at Sebring in March.

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