History of the Alpine Brand - 4 The return to competition

History of the Alpine Brand - 4 The return to competition

08.03.2021: The return to competition When the study was initiated to revive the Alpine brand in 2012, the decision to enter the A arrows in competition was not long in coming. By teaming up with the Signature team, founded and managed by Philippe Sinault,

The return to competition

 

When the study was initiated to revive the Alpine brand in 2012, the decision to enter the A arrows in competition was not long in coming. By teaming up with the Signature team, founded and managed by Philippe Sinault, Alpine is joining forces with a team that has won numerous single-seater races on circuits all over the world. Thus was born Signatech Alpine, the team that was to represent the Dieppe brand in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) Championship from the start of the 2013 season.



The return of blue cars to European circuits was causing a sensation, with a first European Endurance Championship title for Signatech Alpine with a single-seater named A450 and bearing the N°36, driven by Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues. The team would go on to repeat its commitment to this same championship in 2014, with a new title at the end of the season for the Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and Oliver Webb crew.



Invited to the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans thanks to their European title obtained in 2013, the Signatech Alpine team finished 3rd in the LMP2 category of the famous Mancelle race. After these 2 consecutive titles, Alpine decided to take a step towards the World Endurance Championship (WEC), only 2 years after its return to competition.



During this first season in the LMP2 category of the World Endurance Championship, the Signatech Alpine team discovered new circuits with its A450b and obtained a initial podium at the 6 Hours of Fuji, then a first victory at the 6 Hours of Shanghai with Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Vincent Capillaire. The team finished the 2015 season in fourth place in the championship.


For the 2016 season, Alpine began stepping up the pace by entering two cars christened A460 in the LMP2 World Endurance Championship, the N°35 car driven by Nelson Panciatici, Ho-Pin Tung and David Cheng, and the N°36 car driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Stéphane Richelmi and the young Californian, Gustavo Menezes.

 

Signatech Alpine went on to accomplish a dream season, with 4 victories for the N°36, including one at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in front of 250,000 spectators, and earned 3 places on the podium. These results allowed the team to finish at the top of the LMP2 category of the World Championship and to win the FIA Team and Drivers Endurance Trophy. What a great gift to celebrate the official rebirth of the Alpine brand, with the future commercialisation of the new Alpine A110.


In 2017, the team's results were declining, with one victory at the 6 Hours of the Americas and four podium finishes. Signatech finished up the season in third place in the FIA WEC LMP2 Championship.



At the end of the year, Alpine announced the creation of a championship called the Alpine Elf Europa Cup, in reference to the eponymous championship launched by the brand in 1985 with races taking place at the opening of the Formula 1 Grand Prix. The car for this new championship was developed and assembled by Alpine's partner team in the World Endurance Championship, Signatech, based on a production A110.


It was equipped with the same 1.8l Turbo engine, pushed to 270 hp, and coupled to a specific sequential gearbox to meet the constraints of the race. The A110 Cup also had all the equipment necessary for evolution in competition. Won in 2018 by Pierre Sancinéna, this competition was also organised in 2019 and 2020 on the most beautiful European circuits.


In terms of endurance, the years 2018 and 2019 were grouped together and qualified as the FIA WEC Superseason. Signatech Alpine then entered with an Alpine A470. This Superseason had the particularity of including the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice in the same season. Signatech Alpine would go on to win each of the two editions of this legendary race, and once again win the LMP2 Team and Driver World Champion title with the experienced Nicolas Lapierre, the Brazilian, André Négrao, and the driver/company manager, Pierre Thiriet.


In 2018, the partnership between Alpine and Signatech was strengthened, giving birth to a GT4 version of the A110. With more power and aerodynamic support than the A110 Cup, the GT4 would be the concrete expression of Alpine's return to the racetrack, alongside the most prestigious brands. All the A110 GT4s were entered by private teams but benefited from Signatech's factory assistance. In one of its first appearances at the end of 2018, Team CMR's A110 GT4 won the International GT Cup in Bahrain, with Pierre Sancinéna, first winner of the Alpine Elf Europa Cup and with Pierre-Alexandre Jean at the wheel.

 

During the 2019-2020 season, the Signatech Alpine team once again entered the FIA WEC championship with an Alpine A470 driven by Nicolas Lapierre, André Négrao and driver/company manager Pierre Ragues, and finished 5th in the championship in its category.


But there is still one discipline in which Alpine hasn't made a comeback yet, despite its rich record of nearly thirty victories in European and world championships between 1968 and 1975. With car racing being in the genes of the Arrow A, Alpine and Signatech therefore decided to launch the development of a rally car based on the production A110. It would be a car intended for the R-GT category approved by the FIA.


This car was developed in the Signatech Alpine workshops in Bourges, and the dynamic tuning was carried out by driver Manu Guigou, who has won numerous French Rally Championship titles in the 2WD category. As with the Alpine Cup and GT4, the Alpine A110 Rally is part of a customer competition programme.


Entered in early 2020 in a first rally by François Delecour, World Rally Vice-Champion in 1993, the car would get its first laurels in its second race in the French Rally Championship with Manu Guigou at the wheel. The driver and his A110 Rally would go on to repeat the feat in the third rally of this championship, and will end the season with a title of France 2020 champion.


To conclude this year in the best possible way, Pierre Ragues, Signatech Alpine driver in WEC, enters an A110 Rally at the Rallye de Monza, and wins the R-GT category on the first outing of the Alpine Rally in the World Rally Championship.



The car seems to be born to go for new victories on special stages all over the world.



In 2021, Alpine's motorsport programme will gain momentum with the brand's arrival in the Formula 1 World Championship under the name Alpine F1 Team, not forgetting the move up to the premier class (LMP1) of the FIA WEC Endurance World Championship, under the name Alpine Endurance Team.




- Christophe Deville, photos DPPI

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/history-alpine-brand-return-competition---220139.html

08.03.2021 / MaP

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