History of the Alpine Brand - 3 : Alpine's rebirth

History of the Alpine Brand - 3 : Alpine's rebirth

08.03.2021: VI. ALPINE’S REBIRTH The relaunch of Alpine has never been forgotten by Renault's managers, conscious of having a "gold nugget" in their portfolio.


VI. ALPINE’S REBIRTH


The relaunch of Alpine has never been forgotten by Renault's managers, conscious of having a "gold nugget" in their portfolio.

The success of the Alpine A110-50 concept car created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berlinette and which ran on the Monaco and Le Mans circuits as a demonstration, the enthusiasm of spectators during the 2013 Historic Monte Carlo Rally where five A110s raced, the press coverage at the announcement of Alpine's relaunch, are all proof that expectations were high.


At the same time, Alpine's dedicated design, engineering and purchasing teams finalised the overall concept of the production car and set the style for this first car of the renaissance of the Arrowed A, named after its illustrious elder A110. To this end, the historic Dieppe factory is benefiting from significant investments that began in 2014, while some of the 'mules' are already on the road, testing a number of solutions and technical innovations.




In late January 2015, for the "Concept Cars and Automotive Design" exhibition under the Dôme des Invalides, the full-scale model of the Alpine Vision Gran Turismo, which is the new heroine of the racing simulator "Gran Turismo", was presented to the public.



The story would then accelerate with the presentation of a show car at the opening of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans: the Alpine Célébration, created to celebrate the brand's 60th anniversary.



In February 2016, Alpine's relaunch was made official at an international press conference in the port of Monaco, a highly symbolic venue for a brand that has won the Monte Carlo Rally twice. The Alpine Vision show car revealed on this occasion prefigures the production car in preparation. This new model will develop 252 hp and weigh only 1083 kg to obtain an excellent power-to-weight ratio, a characteristic that has made the success of the Alpine developed by Jean Rédélé and his teams.



These two essential elements in the development of the car have made it possible to respect the brand's DNA of lightness and agility.


At the end of 2016, Alpine announced the opening of pre-orders for the Alpine A110 First Edition, a limited edition of 1955 units in reference to the year the brand was created by Jean Rédélé. The entire limited edition was pre-ordered in less than a week.


Marketing of the Alpine A110 First Edition started in late 2017 and continued throughout 2018 at 60 points of sale in Europe, as well at locations in Asia (Japan, Singapore, and Australia). The year 2018 also marked the launch of new Pure and Legend versions of the A110.



In March 2019, the journalists who were members of the European Car of the Year (COTY) jury ranked the Alpine A110 second in the final ranking, among a selection of more than 60 vehicles launched in 2018. Since its launch, this model has won numerous Sports Car of the Year awards from journalists in several European countries.



As soon as the A110 was launched, Alpine developed a more powerful version called A110S (292 hp), with a specific chassis where driving precision and stability at high speed have been modified to satisfy a more demanding clientele in terms of sportiness. This second version will be marketed at the end of 2019.



Alpine continues to expand its catalogue and in 2020 offers an A110 GT Legend version, the most elegant interpretation of the A110 to date, revealed alongside the A110 Color Edition 2020. This year also sees the launch of the Atelier Alpine customisation programme, which is rich in new features.



As part of Groupe Renault’s strategic plan ‘Renaulution’ presented January 14th, 2021 by Luca De Meo, CEO of Groupe Renault, Alpine unveiled its long-term plans to position the brand at the forefront of Groupe Renault’s innovation.
The activities of Alpine Cars, Renault Sport Cars and Renault Sport Racing are united as one entity under the Alpine brand. The newly created entity intends to be a “new generation” automotive Brand for discerning, passionate early adopters.


The new organizational structure, the intensification of synergies with Groupe Renault, the Alliance, and collaboration with selected partners will be instrumental to support Alpine’s product plan. This will include a 100% electric B-Segment Hot Hatch based on the Alliance CMF-B EV platform, a 100% electric C-segment Sports Cross Over based on the Alliance CMF-EV platform, and a 100% EV replacement of the A110 developed with Lotus







VII. MOTORSPORT, ALPINE’S DNA



Alpine is a sporting brand. Racing is in its blood. This formidable image was, naturally, founded on the car’s exploits in rallying. Still Alpine was also victorious in prototypes in the world’s greatest endurance races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, sports car racing’s star event.



The car similarly triumphed in single-seater competition – motor racing’s most exacting discipline – and in rallycross, a discipline that calls for all-round strength.


In rallying, everything began with the A106 ‘Coach’. Independently of Jean Rédélé, several drivers took this first Alpine to victory. After a few years, they formed the first group of professional drivers. They were Jacques Feret (winner of the 1958 Rallye Monte-Carlo in a Dauphine, and later director of sporting promotion for Renault), Henri Greder and Jean Vinatier. The latter alone was a motor racing legend.


He drove in the 1953 Bol d'Or in a 2CV barquette and, after several further outings (for Salmson, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo), acquired one of the first examples of Alpine’s ‘Coach’. He entered it in the Mille Miglia at the age of just 23, yet he already had a promising career behind him.



That career would accelerate with DB Panhard and later René Bonnet and Abarth, before he was entrusted with several Alpines by Jean Rédélé in 1964: a prototype in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an Alpine Gordini Formula 2 single-seater and a Berlinette in rallying. At the same time, he was also racing for Renault as a factory driver. Moreover, still in 1964, he claimed his first major victory with a Renault 8 1100 Gordini in the Tour de Corse.



Meticulous, organised, intelligent and mechanically sympathetic, he was reliable and quick and achieved numerous successes. His greatest source of pride came from winning a Coupe d'Or in the Coupe des Alpes. Only Englishmen Ian Appleyard and Stirling Moss could lay claim to possessing a similar trophy.



After driving the three-litre Alpine A220 at Le Mans, he became French Rally Champion in 1969 in a Berlinette. Later, he would be appointed Sporting Director, first at Ford, and later Fiat Abarth before taking charge of important responsibilities at the French motor racing federation (Fédération Française de Sport Automobile).



The arrival of the A110 in the rallying world launched the careers of other drivers, too, like Gérard Larrousse, who looked set to win the 1968 Rallye Monte-Carlo until he found himself caught out by a patch of snow deposited by ill-intentioned spectators. Later, Larrousse would go on to drive Alpine prototypes before becoming director of Renault’s F1 team.



It was, though, above all the team of ‘Musketeers’ created by Jacques Cheinisse, the brand’s sporting director, that captured the public’s imagination. Composed of the acrobatic Jean-Luc Thérier, perfectionist Bernard Darniche, dependable Jean-Pierre Nicolas and the brilliant Jean-Claude Andruet, the team truly stood out.


It was strengthened from time to time by drivers of the calibre of Ove Andersson, who won the Rallye Monte-Carlo for Alpine in 1971.



That year would be one of title success for Alpine in the International Rally Championship for Manufacturers, a sort of precursor to the World Rally Championship. That followed on from 1970 when Jean-Claude Andruet had snared the European Rally Championship crown. This excellent  driver had already clinched the French title in 1968. Jean Vinatier succeeded him in 1969, but the ineffable Jean-Claude regained the laurels in 1970. In 1971, it was the turn of Jean-Pierre Nicolas, whilst Bernard Darniche prevailed in 1972.



The fourth musketeer, Jean-Luc Thérier, finally clinched the French championship in 1973 but what was even more remarkable was that it was a private entrant who then picked up the baton and claimed the laurels for two years in succession, in 1974 and 1975. His name was Jacques Henry, and he maintained his cars himself in a small garage in Lure!


For eight years, the Berlinette remained on the top step of the podium – most notably during its exceptional 1973 campaign when, notwithstanding a minimal budget compared to its rivals, Alpine didn’t shy away from going in search of the Holy Grail... the World Rally Championship crown.


To begin with, the team achieved a veritable ‘strike’ by filling five of the top six places in the demanding Rallye Monte-Carlo. Even better, Berlinettes monopolised the podium, with Andruet finishing ahead of Andersson and Nicolas. Thérier and Piot finished respectively fifth and sixth.



Jean-Claude Andruet’s co-driver, ‘Biche’, confessed that he had “never been so fast on a rally”.


That year, there was another standout performance by Jean-Luc Thérier who finished third in the Swedish Rally, traditionally a favourite stomping ground of Scandinavian drivers. There was another one-two on the Rally de Portugal, courtesy of Thérier and Nicolas, and then victory for Darniche on the Rallye du Maroc – an event he was attempting for the first time.



In rocky, sun-baked Greece, Thérier dominated the Acropolis Rally. In Austria, a controversy deprived Darniche of victory, whilst Thérier won the Rallye Sanremo in Italy. The crowning glory came in Corsica where – as they had done in the very first round of the World Rally Championship in Monte-Carlo – Alpine-Renaults annexed the top three positions, Nicolas winning ahead of Piot and Thérier.


In the final classification that year, Alpine-Renault destroyed the opposition with a score of 155 points, ahead of Fiat Abarth on 81 and Ford on 76.


When the A310 succeeded the A110, it was similarly baptised in a competitive environment. Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Jean-Luc Thérier and the incredible Jean Ragnotti drove it to victory with the four-cylinder Gordini engine, before Guy Fréquelin won the French Rally Championship in 1977 with the V6 powerplant. Only the advent of the awesome Renault 5 Turbo – also produced in Dieppe – brought an end to the A310’s impressive run.



In prototypes, Alpine made its debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1963, under the management of José Rosinski. Here again, Alpine demonstrated its originality by targeting performance and efficiency rather than outright victory. With their small, 1000cc or 1300cc Gordini engines, the cars were able to defeat their rivals, particularly thanks to their carefully honed aerodynamics. In 1964, Henry Morrogh and Roger Delageneste won their class at Le Mans in an M64 fitted with a 1100cc engine.


Commenté [T5]: one-two (doublé) - This could be a UK term. I am not familiar with it. Also used elsewhere above.



In 1966, there was a second victory for fuel efficiency with the A210 of Cheinisse-Delageneste. Still, it was above all a group success as the four Alpine prototypes that finished the race covered a total of more than 4,000km – a feat that no French car had ever accomplished before either at Le Mans or elsewhere.


In 1968, Alpine presented an A220 equipped with a 3.0-litre Gordini V8 engine. However, vibration issues meant it was unreliable, and after another failure in 1969, a curtain was drawn over the prototype initiative. It was revived in 1973 with the two-litre, V6 A440, and the programme reached its crowning glory with the historic victory of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi in an Alpine Renault A442-B in the 1978 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours.



The duo triumphed outright, whilst rally pairing Ragnotti/Fréquelin piloted a second A442 to fourth place. It was after this performance that the endurance programme was halted to focus instead on Renault’s 1.5-litre Turbo Formula 1 car which followed on from the A500. This single-seater had been developed by André de Cortanze, the man in charge of Alpine’s research department.


Alpine also triumphed in single-seaters. In the very first year in which the brand was officially engaged in competition, Alpine claimed the French Formula 3 Championship in 1964 with the talented Henri Grandsire. In 1971, Patrick Depailler became French Champion in the famous Alpine A364 ‘Dinosaure’ followed in 1972 by Michel Leclère.




That same year, Alpine was also crowned teams’ champion in European F3, ahead of the formidable English outfits.
Alpine shone in other disciplines, too. In rallycross, Jean Ragnotti, Bruno Saby and Jean-Pierre Beltoise clinched the French title in three consecutive years (1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively), whilst Austrian Herbert Grünsteidl lifted the European laurels in 1977. In hillclimbing, meanwhile, there were successes for Jean Ortelli, Marcel Tarres and hundreds of other drivers.






- Christophe Deville, photos DPPI Renault Communications

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08.03.2021 / MaP

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