The Alpine A460s were in sparkling form in qualifying, with home hero Gustavo Menezes and Nicolas Lapierre annexing the first pole position of the season for the N°36 Signatech-Alpine by almost a full second! In the hands of David Cheng and Nelson Panciatici, the sister N°35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine entry similarly achieved its best grid position to-date for a six-hour race as the pair lapped fifth-quickest in LMP2.
The green flag dropped at 5:00pm on Saturday under the stifling Texas sun, with an air temperature of more than 35°C. On the opening lap, the N°44 Manor snatched the initiative at the head of the LMP2 field, with the two Alpine A460s in hot pursuit. Roberto Merhi, Nicolas Lapierre and Nelson Panciatici proceeded to put on a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle worthy of a grand prix around the spectacular Circuit of the Americas until ten laps in, when the N°36 Signatech-Alpine reclaimed a lead that it would not subsequently relinquish.
After 45 minutes, Lapierre passed the reins to team-mate Stéphane Richelmi, who produced a double stint as day turned into night. Although it never dipped below 30°C, the temperature did cool off slightly as humidity levels reached almost 70 per cent.
These conditions unsurprisingly took a physical toll on the drivers, with Panciatici being forced to abandon a planned double stint early on in the race. Suffering from dehydration, the Frenchman found himself having to hand over to Cheng before being taken to the circuit’s medical centre to recover.
The Baxi DC Racing Alpine was then struck by further misfortune at the beginning of Ho-Pin Tung’s second stint behind the wheel. A heavy impact with a kerb prompted a return to the garage to change the front end of the car and its front suspension, but following a swift 17-minute repair job, Ho-Pin and David brought the N°35 car safely home in eighth place in-class.
At the same time, the N°36 Signatech-Alpine was continuing to lap the Circuit of the Americas with metronomic consistency. Following Richelmi’s double stint, Menezes and Lapierre maintained an equally strong rhythm to establish an advantage of a full lap over their closest pursuers.
Menezes was afforded the honour of finishing the race on home turf, and as he completed his final stint, the Californian could scarcely contain his emotions as he crossed the finish line to win in front of family and friends.
The result enabled the N°36 Signatech-Alpine trio to stretch its lead in the championship table to 38 points, with the N°35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine remaining in ninth position.
The next race on the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) calendar will take place at Fuji in Japan on October 14-16.
Bernard Ollivier, Deputy Managing Director of Alpine: “What a race! It is easy to forget with the success we are enjoying that this is still only our first season running the Alpine A460s, but it is obvious that we are continuing to make progress every time out. We set the tone in qualifying in Texas by claiming our first pole position of the season. In the race, the entire team produced a flawless performance, and it is a source of immense pride to see Alpine win in the United States. With a perfect display of panache, the Signatech-Alpine drivers have increased their overall championship lead once again, meaning the pressure is most definitely on the shoulders of those trying to catch up. As for the Baxi DC Racing Alpine, we are convinced that its consistent improvement will soon yield the kind of result its crew is so clearly capable of.”
Philippe Sinault (Team Principal, Signatech-Alpine: “I think this was our most polished race since the start of the season, in every aspect, from the set-up of the cars and our strategy, to the performance of the drivers. We hit the ground running for free practice and winning pole position was an initial satisfaction. Physically, it turned out to be a tougher race than we were expecting. Nicolas, Stéphane, who was extenuated after his double stint, and Gustavo all accomplished their mission to the letter and that allowed us to challenge for our fourth win with the N°36 car. And, as we saw early on, the N°35 car has made progress, too, even though a few grains of sand got into the machine. After an excellent start, Nelson suffered from bad dehydration and we had to change our strategy. David put in his best race since joining the team but we then lost ground after Ho-Pin hit a kerb. If things go a little more in its favour, I can see this car fighting for a top-five finish each time out…”
Nelson Panciatici: “I really enjoyed the beginning of the race. At the start, I moved up from fifth into third, right in the wheel tracks of the N°36 but then things got more complicated at the beginning of my second stint. We wanted to try a double stint, but ultimately the conditions were too hot and I began to struggle for concentration, which meant I had to stop sooner than planned. I was subsequently taken to the medical centre to rehydrate, but thankfully I’m ok now.”
Ho-Pin Tung: “That was a very difficult race. We found ourselves having to modify our strategy and physically, it was extremely tough to handle the heat, not to mention tyre wear. During my second stint at night-time, I caught a large kerb on the inside of a corner. That caused quite a lot of damage, but the mechanics did an amazing job to repair it, which allowed us to finish and score some more points. Ultimately, it just wasn’t our weekend, but we can take confidence from having taken another step forward in terms of overall performance.”
David Cheng: “We had the potential to achieve a good result here, but the race didn’t exactly turn out as we had hoped... It was really hard to complete double stints in such hot conditions, even at night. There was no air inside the car, and the final laps in particular were extremely tough. It was a good job I trained so hard physically for this event! I would say this was my best race of 2016 so far. Setting up the DC Racing programmes at the beginning of the season took a lot out of me, but now that I can focus fully on my driving, I feel like I’m making real progress.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “Our car was the class of the field throughout the weekend in Austin and we took full advantage of that in both qualifying and the race! We decided to start on the same tyres we had used in qualifying, which was a small handicap compared with our rivals who were on fresh rubber. However, things levelled out after several laps, which enabled us to grab the lead and continue pushing hard right up to the end of my opening stint. The team managed the ‘Full Course Yellow’ interventions to perfection at critical stages of the race and my two team-mates did an excellent job, particularly Stéphane who succeeded in completing a double stint at a moment when nobody else had been able to do so.”
Stéphane Richelmi: “Don’t ever let anybody try to tell you that motorsport isn’t physically demanding! I am really pleased that I was able to complete a double stint; that had always been our intention, but in light of the conditions, the team asked me if I was still willing to give it a go. I reassured them that I was, and it worked out well. When a ‘Full Course Yellow’ fell a few laps before my planned pit-stop, we brought the stop forward which allowed me to get out of the car a bit earlier. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered so much in a racing car, but it was worth the effort. To finish a lap ahead of our closest rival was really rewarding. We demonstrated what we are capable of, and that fills us all with a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Gustavo Menezes: “Firstly, I need to say a big ‘thank you’ to the team for having given me the opportunity to finish the race. As an American, to take the chequered flag to win on home soil was an incredible feeling. It was unquestionably our best race of the year to-date, and my second favourite moment after victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Although we didn’t encounter any unexpected dramas, it was nonetheless a very demanding race. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how tough it would be until I got behind the wheel. Massive kudos to Stéphane, as he had the most difficult task of all of us and handled it admirably.
6 HOURS OF CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS LMP2 CLASSIFICATION
1. Signatech-Alpine N°36 172 laps
2. RGR Sport by Morand N°43 +1 lap
3. G-Drive Racing N°26 +1 lap
4. SMP Racing N°27 +4 laps
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports N°31 +4 laps
6. SMP Racing N°37 +5 laps
7. Extreme Speed Motorsports N°30 +6 laps
8. Baxi DC Racing Alpine N°35 +12 laps
FIA ENDURANCE TROPHY FOR LMP2 TEAMS (OFFICIAL)
1. Signatech-Alpine N°36 156pts
2. RGR Sport by Morand N°43 118pts
3. G-Drive Racing N°26 86pts
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports N°31 84pts
5. Strakka Racing N°42 58pts
5. SMP Racing N°37 58pts
7. SMP Racing N°27 44pts
8. Extreme Speed Motorsports N°30 36pts
9. Baxi DC Racing Alpine N°35 26pts
10. Manor N°44 18pts
11. Greaves Motorsport N°41 10pts
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Alpine Press Officer
+33 (0)1 76 84 64 83 / +33 (0)6 72 84 63 24
Signatech-Alpine Press Officer
+33 (0)6 64 13 84 49
Media Contact: Renault Press - +33 (0)1 76 84 63 36
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