Runner-up at the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the no.36 Signatech Alpine Matmut crew recorded a fifth consecutive LMP2 podium in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The result of the Lapierre/Negrão/Menezes crew was obtained thanks to a strategy focused on efficiency, paired with fuel and tyre management.
Alpine therefore heads for the season-ending finale in Bahrain on 18 November with its hopes still alive of retaining the LMP2 world title.
The cars lined up on the starting grid in grey, overcast conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit. The no.36 Alpine A470 began in fifth place in the LMP2 class following a frustrating time in qualifying, during which André Negrão had been held up on his fastest lap.
The opening corners of the race were eventful, with Nico Müller (no.26 car) spinning in the middle of the field. Nicolas Lapierre took advantage of the incident to race clear and end the opening lap in second position in the LMP2 category, just behind Bruno Senna (no.31 car).
Quickly adopting a pace aimed at preserving the car's fuel and tyres, Nico remained second throughout his first two stints. He then handed over to André Negrão, who managed to withstand the pressure he was put under by his rivals whilst also keeping clear of the many clashes throughout the field.
Shortly before the race's halfway point, the Brazilian handed over driving duties to Gustavo Menezes, who also completed two stints. Like his team-mates, the Californian adopted the strategy defined by the team: he stayed as close as possible to the leader, whilst managing fuel consumption and looking after the tyres.
With an hour and a half of the race left to go, Nicolas Lapierre got back in the car for the final two stints. At that point, the competitors showed their hands and the various race strategies became fully apparent.
Like the no.31 car, which went on to win the race, the no.36 Alpine A470 only made seven pit stops in six hours, compared with eight for the no.13 and 38 cars, the other leading contenders who were ultimately relegated to third and fourth positions.
Thanks to its haul of 18 points, Signatech Alpine Matmut consolidates its third place in the LMP2 Teams championship standings. Trailing the top two by 23 and 19 points respectively, the French squad remains in the title race. The ninth and final round of the season will be held on 18 November at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director
It's a very good second place, one we had to work very hard to get. The team showed great skill and dedication. The drivers did a great job in looking after the tyres and managing fuel consumption for six hours, enabling us to make one fewer pit stop over the course of the race. I imagine it may have been frustrating to drive like this, but ultimately the strategy paid off. Each member of the Signatech Alpine Matmut team played their role to perfection, and they can all be proud this evening. We'll head to Bahrain believing in our chances. As always, we'll give absolutely everything to finish the season in style.
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
We achieved our target for the weekend, which was to take the title race to Bahrain. After a tricky time in free practice, we had made good progress and our fifth place in qualifying didn't reflect our true performance level. In the race, we knew that we would struggle to match the pace of the no.31 car, which was a class above the rest of the field. However, our perfect race allowed us to claim second place in normal racing conditions. We couldn't have done any more as regards optimising our strategy. The low fuel alert was lighting up on every lap before the pit stops! In order to achieve this result, we also needed the drivers and the mechanics to produce a flawless performance and that's exactly what we all managed to do. We are therefore still in the title race. It will be difficult, because we now have to rely upon factors outside of our control in the final round. But we'll do all we can to bring about a successful outcome!
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36
We produced a solid race to hold onto second place. Apart from the no.31 car, which was quicker, I think we had the best performance in the race after progressing throughout the weekend. As it's always difficult to overtake on this track, I took a few risks at the start and that's what enabled me to move up into second place. From then on, we had a perfect race: the mechanics and both my team-mates did a very good job. Finishing as runners-up is the best result we could have hoped for and it leaves us with a small chance of winning the championship.
When I was driving, I was above all very focused on managing the tyres and preserving fuel. The car tended to oversteer a little and so I had to avoid overheating the rear tyres, in particular, in order to save a lap per stint. It was only towards the end of my second stint that I was able to push to try and reduce the gap. I made up close to thirty seconds on the no.31 and I think I did a good job at this point in the race. It was nice to be able to fight like that, we really had a good strategy.
I'd say that the result is better than we might have hoped for at the start of the weekend. Nico made very good start, then André managed to keep up a very good rhythm until he handed over to me. I managed to close a little bit on the leaders during my first stint, before then easing off again due to our strategy. As we had only changed the rear tyres, I had to deal with some understeer. In the end, second place is the result that we deserved. In Bahrain, our sights will be set purely on winning.
6 Hours of Shanghai – LMP2
1. Vaillante Rebellion no.31
2. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36
3. Vaillante Rebellion no.13
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38
5. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25
6. TDS Racing no.28
7. G-Drive Racing no.26
8. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37
9. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24
FIA Endurance LMP2 "Teams" Trophy
1. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 161 points
2. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 157 points
3. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 – 138 points
4. G-Drive Racing no.26 – 76 points
5. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 – 75 points
6. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 – 74 points
7. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 – 70 points
8. TDS Racing no.28 – 53 points
9. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 – 36 points