Jacques Villeneuve has hit back at the unilateral decision by WEC outfit Vanwall to oust him from the team's 2023 Le Mans line-up without informing the Canadian.
Villeneuve signed up for a full season in the World Endurance Championship with the ByKolles-run Hypercar team, joining teammates Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerreri onboard the Vandervell 680 non-hybrid LMH car.
However, the 1997 F1 world champion suffered a rather chaotic debut with the Floyd Vanwall Racing Team, crashing in the WEC’s prologue at Sebring and then tangling with a Ferrari GTE at the Spa round, with terminal consequences.
Villenueve was also involved in another incident at Portimao in April, although a suspected brake failure was suspected to have caused his off-track excursion into the barriers.
Last Thursday, Vanwall announced out of the blue that Frenchman Tristan Vautier would replace Villeneuve, the team citing the Canadian’s lack of mileage but also the impending arrival of a baby within the Villeneuve household.
“The situation is that we don’t feel that he [Villeneuve] is ready to go to Le Mans,” Kolles told Dutch website 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.”
On Wednesday, Villeneuve hit back at ByKolles for his eviction and disputed the team’s reasons for the latter.
He also made clear that he would no longer race with the team in the remaining rounds of this years’ WEC.
"I am deeply disappointed to have learned of my replacement for the upcoming Le Mans 24hrs through a public announcement released by the Vanwall Racing Team ByKolles on May 25th, 2023,” Villeneuve said in a press release.
“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 24hrs race.
“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 May 26th. ByKolles was well aware of this personal family event, rendering me unable
to respond or address this sudden announcement.
“As a racing family, we have always successfully balanced our personal lives with our professional careers, with racing always holding a prominent place.
“In fact, my preparation for the Le Mans 24hrs event was meticulous and well-organized.
“Considerable time and effort were dedicated to achieving peak physical and mental readiness for this extraordinary challenge that I was really looking forward to.
“Following victories in the Indy500, Indycar and the F1 Championship, the Le Mans 24hrs holds special significance for me.
“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.
“Instead, I will redirect my focus and energies towards preparing for a more successful and professionally fulfilling 2024 racing season.”