Alpine was in the news for several reasons at the 2016 FIA WEC’s official pre-season test at Le Castellet, France.
To begin with, Thursday evening saw a big turnout attend the presentation of the team’s two new A460 prototypes alongside the Alpine Vision show car.
The next morning, the focus switched to the Signatech-Alpine pits as the two prototypes’ V8 engines fired up to mark the start of the 2016 FIA WEC Prologue which comprised five sessions – including one after nightfall on Saturday evening – over two days (Friday and Saturday).
The opening session ended with the two Alpine A460s in front, led by the N°35 prototype thanks to Nelson Panciatici’s early benchmark effort. The N°36 was then fastest during the night-time run before topping the order again the following morning when Nicolas Lapierre posted the best lap of the Prologue (1m46.974s).
Together, the two Alpine A460s clocked up 429 laps of the French track – equivalent to 2,484.339km – allowing the team to collect valuable data that will be put to good use as it fine-tunes its preparations for the season’s curtain-raiser at Silverstone, England, on April 17.
Bernard Ollivier (Deputy Managing Director, Alpine): “Both on and off the race track, at the official team launch, then during the test, we saw how much support Alpine enjoys as the project continues to gather momentum. Not only do Signatech-Alpine’s two A460s look great but they also posted competitive times at Le Castellet. One should never read too much into the results of a test like this, but the fact that we were consistently at the top end of the leaderboard shows we have the potential to challenge for individual race wins and this year’s title.”
Philippe Sinault (Team Principal, Signatech-Alpine): “We continued the programme we started at the Alpine A460’s first three-day test at Motorland Aragón. Our aim was to work through a range of set-ups to make sure they functioned with the latest 2016-specification Dunlop tyres. We also simulated race stints to work on long-run performance. All six drivers functioned well together, producing a balanced contribution while providing our technical staff with good feedback. With the start of the season approaching very quickly now, the team is gelling perfectly and we will use the three weeks that remain until the first round at Silverstone to finalise our preparations.”
Lionel Chevalier (Technical Director, Signatech-Alpine): “We used our first test in Spain to get to know the car and work through a range of aero and suspension set-ups. The A460 is a nicely balanced car which responds well to changes. Our aim at Le Castellet was to keep working steadily without paying too much attention to the times. We wanted to fine-tune a certain number of details and that’s why the N°35 car didn’t go out on Friday evening because we needed to make sure the driving position was just right. The two days in France also sharpened the way the team operates and the way we share data between the two cars.”
BAXI DC RACING ALPINE (N°35 ALPINE A460)
David Cheng: “It really is something to be involved in a programme like Alpine’s. The technical staff, the two cars and the other drivers form a strong package and we’re already operating like a small family. The Alpine A460 is nice to drive but the bulk of my work consisted in familiarising myself with the tyres because this is my first season on Dunlops. We had two good productive days.”
Nelson Panciatici: “I’ve got a good feeling with the Alpine A460. There are quite a few changes compared with the A450b. To begin with, it’s nicer to drive with a closed cockpit because it protects you from high-speed turbulence. It’s also a latest-generation car, so its aerodynamic efficiency makes it easier to drive, too, and you don’t have to push as hard to post a good time. If we keep on working like this we should make good progress. Things are going well with David and Ho-Pin. We’re dovetailing well already and our combined experience is helping us to move forward.”
Ho-Pin Tung: “I’m starting to have quite a lot of experience driving this type of prototype and I have to say that the Alpine A460 is a top car. Like David, the main challenge I face is getting accustomed to the Dunlop tyres. It’s been an encouraging start. We’ve done some good work and I think we will be ready for Silverstone. Having worked with Renault F1 Team in 2010, it’s great to be back as part of the Group again. Alpine has a glorious past, especially at Le Mans, and I am proud to be defending its colours in the FIA World Endurance Championship.”
SIGNATECH-ALPINE – N°36 ALPINE A460
Nicolas Lapierre: “I feel proud to be driving an Alpine, but it comes with a certain amount of responsibility and pressure when you start thinking about its history. It’s also very nice to be back racing for Philippe Sinault’s team. We’ve been through a great deal together, with highlights including victory at the Macau Grand Prix in 2003. I will try to bring my experience of endurance racing to the table and we will use anything that can help us to improve. My team-mates have less experience of the discipline than I do but they have the right attitude for us all to succeed together.”
Gustavo Menezes: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to be racing for a team that has already got two ELMS titles and an LMP2 podium finish at Le Mans under its belt. I’m also thrilled about everything that’s going on at Alpine. The Alpine Vision show car is superb and I can’t wait to get a chance to drive the new road car when it comes out. For the moment, though, our focus is on racing and I think we have all the ingredients in place for a great season. We all share the same desire to win. The team has helped me to make the switch from single-seater racing and the test at Le Castellet showed that everything is blending well.”
Stéphane Richelmi: “This is something of a baptism of fire for me! Most of my career to date has been in single-make championships, so working with such a big team as Alpine is a huge step. The Alpine A460 feels almost like a single-seater and, after a year of GT racing, it’s great to be back in a car that has some grunt. I still need to acclimatise to the niceties of endurance racing, even if the discipline is more about long stints than real endurance like it used to be some years ago. It’s a big ‘plus’ for Gustavo and me to be working with someone of Nicolas’ calibre. He’s being very open about sharing everything and his experience is a help in so many different ways.”