The FIA World Endurance Championship began today with the 4 Hours of Silverstone (Great Britain).
· Thanks to a shift in strategy, Signatech Alpine Elf finished second in the LMP2 category with a last lap pass and positions itself as a candidate to its own succession.
· After a ninth consecutive podium finish for the team, the trio of Thomas Laurent, André Negrão and Pierre Ragues looks ahead to Fuji (6 October).
The season got underway on Friday with two productive free practice sessions, then a third prior to Saturday qualifying. The timed exercise was entrusted to Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues, who posted the fifth best time in LMP2.
After the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert the previous day, hearts were heavy when André Negrão got behind the wheel for the start of the 4 Hours of Silverstone. Boxed in at the inside of turn one by an LMP1 car, the Brazilian lost a position before striking back to move into fourth place ahead of the first safety car period.
Contrary to the majority of its rivals, the Signatech Alpine Elf team stayed out as long as possible before its first stop and Andre Negrão gave it all he had in the battle during his second stint before handing over to Pierre Ragues at the 90-minute mark of the race.
The Frenchman soon had to come back to the pits as it began to rain. In these tricky conditions in his first race in the Alpine A470 in more than two years, Pierre pushed as hard as he could with the intermediate tyres before the second safety car period at the mid-way point of the race.
Meanwhile, the track began to dry and Thomas Laurent took over with an hour and 40 minutes remaining. For his first race with the French squad, he was sixth when the race resumed and soon made a stout overtake on the n°47 Cetilar Racing entry.
As the various strategies faded, the newcomer to the team increased his pace in his second stint before a perfectly executed stop by the team with 20 minutes to go. Leaving the pits in third place, Thomas put the hammer down in the final minutes to close right up to the n°29 Racing Team Nederlands car and snatch second place on the last lap of the race.
With this ninth consecutive podium finish and big points on the board, Signatech Alpine Elf hopes to continue its streak and confirm this strong start to the season at the next round, the 6 Hours of Fuji on 6 October.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Elf:
“We are satisfied with the result of this first race, because our goal was to make a good start to the season and take a ninth straight podium finish. Despite a small technical issue in qualifying, we were quite relaxed after that. Andre put in an excellent start with a different strategy than our rivals, who stopped during the first safety car period. We wanted to reduce the number of stops and it paid off just until the second safety car which didn’t work out in our favour. Pierre still stayed within striking distance and didn’t make any mistakes while dealing with the trickier conditions. Thomas was able to put in a great comeback drive that finished in style on the last lap. I think that we did a good job with the championship in mind, although we did get an idea of how competitive the season is going to be with so many fantastic driver line-ups and top-notch teams among the contenders.”
“It was a busy race with a lot of traffic, tyre management and some great overtakes. I wasn’t sure we would be on the podium when I got in the car and I got caught up in a false pace in my opening stint. I wore out my front-tyres in traffic, but the team put on new left-side tyres to pick up the pace before our final and super-fast stop. The podium was looking out of reach, but I managed to pull away from the guys behind me and was able to take a second place that had looked to be impossible a few minutes before. The team and my team mates did a fantastic job and this result is perfect for my first race with them!”
“It had been a long time since I was so nervous as it was such a difficult race! My stint could have been better if I had been a little more aggressive at the start, but the team made huge strides forward with the strategy and set-ups that let us move from fifth to second place. It is always good to score a lot of points straight away when the championship promises to be very competitive with so many serious title contenders behind us. We now look towards Fuji, a meeting that we need to prepare seriously as the conditions are difficult there.”
“We knew there was a chance of rain, but the timing didn’t work out in our favour because it began to sprinkle on just my second lap. The team was very quick to switch to intermediate tyres, which are always hard to figure out in race conditions, but I did my best to keep a solid pace and hand over to Thomas in the best conditions. André put in a great start of the race and Thomas drove a perfect end of the race, so our efforts were rewarded during this very emotional weekend. As a French driver in a French team, it was hard to not think of Anthoine Hubert today and we all wanted to honour him.”
4 Hours of Silverstone – LMP2
1. Cool Racing n°42 – 124 laps
2. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 +49.311s
3. Racing Team Nederland n°29 +51.733s
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 +58.972s
5. JOTA n°38 +59.457s
6. Cetilar Racing n°33 + 2 laps
7. High Class Racing n°33 + 2 laps
NC. United Autosports n°22
FIA LMP2 Teams’ Trophy
1. Cool Racing n°42 – 25 points
2. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 – 18 points
3. Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 16 points
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 12 points
5. JOTA n°38 – 10 points
6. Cetilar Racing n°33 – 8 points
7. High Class Racing n°33 – 6 points
NC. United Autosports n°22