Rounding off an exceptional season that saw the team win four races – including the 24 Hours of Le Mans – Signatech-Alpine claimed the LMP2 Category Teams' and Drivers titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship*.
As emphasized by Michael Van der Sande, Managing Director of Alpine, "securing this world title on the track is a fantastic boost for the teams working on the production model, which is due to go on sale next year."
Indeed, the brand's return to racing has been very closely linked to the renaissance of Alpine. In 2013, when the Renault Group announced that intended to design a Berlinette for the 21st century, the Signatech-Alpine entered the European Le Mans Series to support this renewal.
This programme echoed the past successes of Alpine in Endurance racing, notably winning the European Two-litre Sports Car Championship for Makes in 1974 and the victory of Pironi/Jaussaud's A442B at the 24 Hours of La Mans in 1978.
After two seasons full of panache, which saw Alpine claim two European titles, the team decided to fly the flag for France on the world stage as it entered the FIA WEC. The 2015 season, essentially focused on learning about racing at this level, nonetheless saw the Alpine A450b win its first race at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
This year, the team's ambitions were raised a notch with the entry of two new Alpine A460s: in addition to the no.36, the number assigned to Signatech-Alpine since 2013, the second car was entered on behalf of Baxi DC Racing Alpine.
After winning races at Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans, the Nürburgring and Austin, Alpine had a chance of securing the title this weekend at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
In qualifying, Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes finished second in their no.36 Signatech-Alpine. David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung were tenth in the no.35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine.
The race got off a dramatic start, with some enthusiastic racing on display at the opening corner. Whilst Nicolas Lapierre grabbed the early lead in the LMP2 class, Ho-Pin Tung only just managed to avoid a collision right in front of him!
In an attempt to save his tyres in the extremely hot conditions, Nicolas made no attempt to hold off Alex Brundle (no.26), who took over as leader after half an hour of the race.
Shortly before the end of his second stint, Ho-Pin Tung was hit by a GT at the end of the long start-finish straight. The Baxi DC Racing driver came into the pits immediately and the team changed the no.35 Alpine A460's front hood. Paul-Loup Chatin took over behind the wheel, whilst Gustavo Menezes replaced Nicolas Lapierre in the no.36. Both cars were racing on hard rubber, replacing the medium compound tyres used since the start.
Whilst running in third, Gustavo Menezes was shunted into a spin by Bruno Senna (no.43). Fortunately, the Signatech-Alpine car did not suffer any damage and was able to continue racing, whilst its title rival was handed a penalty.
Following Stéphane Richelmi's double stint, Nicolas Lapierre took over behind the wheel with 1 hr 30 mins to go. Unable to challenge for the race win, the Frenchman matched the pace of the no.43 car. He was cheered across the finishing line in fourth position by the entire team, gathered along the pit wall! The celebrations were shared by the Baxi DC Racing Alpine crew. Ho-Pin Tung, who had taken over from David Cheng, ended his home race in eighth place.
In four seasons, Alpine has quickly beaten a path to the top of the podium. This French success story shows the capacity of Alpine to take on challenges, both on the track and on the road. In a few months' time, the unveiling of a modern, elegant sports coupé built in France will be another important step in the renewal of the brand. Alpine is back… and this is just the start!
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director:
"We have had an unforgettable weekend in Shanghai, with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm, especially focusing on the Baxi DC Racing Alpine. On the track, the team had a huge challenge in terms of tyre management. We needed to combine caution and aggressiveness to protect our position. We achieved our goal, with a superb finish to the race by Nicolas Lapierre, who showed our rivals that we were right there! The world title secured by Signatech-Alpine is the ultimate reward in a great human adventure that started in January 2013 when Alpine began competing in endurance racing. Four years on, and we have won the lot. I never dreamed that it would all happen so quickly. These three titles are the result of the hard work and professionalism of every member of the team. Everyone that has been involved in this project since the start must feel very proud tonight. This sporting adventure makes a major contribution to the Alpine's renewal strategy, which will shortly take real shape with the presentation of our first model. In the last race, we'll be able to fight for victory with the pressure off, our only ambition will be to honour Alpine's characteristic panache."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal:
"At the start of the season, we didn't dare dream about this title. This is an incredibly proud moment for our team. Red, white and blue blood runs through the veins of each of the mechanics, engineers and drivers of our A460! In Shanghai, we noticed during free practice how significant tyre wear was here. We therefore decided to contest qualifying with one driver on hard tyres and the other on mediums. This option meant we had to use hard tyres again in the race, due to the quotas imposed by the regulations. Gustavo and Paul-Loup had a hard time during their stints, but they did a great job in the circumstances. At the end of the race, we had improved performance since we were challenging for third place with the no.36. However, fourth position was enough for us to win the title. It's a bit frustrating not to finish on the podium, but we achieved the goal we had set ourselves with this third title in four years. As Alpine prepares to unveil its new coupé, this gives meaning to our shared story. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the other teams competing in the LMP2 class. The standard was incredibly high this year and our rivals pushed us to the very limit. We'd love to finish the year in style in Bahrain!"
THE ROAD TO THE TITLE FOR THE NO.36 SIGNATECH-ALPINE…
17 April – 6 Hours of Silverstone
For the Alpine A460's first race, the team had a lot to learn, especially when it came to managing tyres on a wet track. In the race itself, the Signatech-Alpine made it up to third position, but a puncture cost the car a place and it finished just shy of the podium places.
7 May – WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Full of incidents and action, the Belgian round of the FIA WEC was decided only in the final hour. After losing his lead behind the safety car, Nicolas Lapierre had to come into the pits for more fuel. He rejoined in second place but quickly regained the lead after pulling off a bold overtaking move to get past Derani! The Alpine A460 claimed its first win.
18-19 June – 24 Hours of Le Mans
Lapierre, Richelmi and Menezes produced a perfect performance to beat 22 very tough competitors, laying the foundations for the win overnight. The team reacted quickly to on-track events, thinking on its feet to adapt its strategy. This enabled the no.36 Alpine A460 to move clear in the early hours of the morning. After covering some 4,864.86km, the car crossed the finishing line first in its category and fifth overall, equalling the best ever result of an LMP2 at Le Mans. It is also worth noting that this result was achieved with two Le Mans "rookies" in the crew.
24 July – 6 Hours of the Nürburgring
There was no question of the team resting on its laurels after the win at Le Mans! In Germany, the Signatech-Alpine crew secured its third consecutive race win. In the lead at the halfway stage, Gustavo Menezes managed the various safety car periods perfectly, leaving Nicolas Lapierre to finish the job in relaxed fashion!
3 September – 6 Hours of Mexico
With the European season over, the FIA WEC headed for the Americas. In front of wildly enthusiastic fans, the Signatech-Alpine took the lead halfway through the race. The appearance of rain made no change to the standings, but then the no.36 lost the lead after being given a drive-through penalty. Nicolas Lapierre attempted to fight back in the closing laps and crossed the finishing line less than two seconds behind the winners!
17 September – 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
For the first time this season, Alpine claimed pole position. Contested in stiflingly hot conditions, this race turned the drivers into genuine slaves to the track. Stéphane Richelmi proved to be the most adept at this exercise, managing to complete a double stint. This decisive phase enabled the no.36 to build up a one-lap lead. At his home event, Gustavo Menezes had the honour of crossing the finishing line as the winner!
16 October – 6 Hours of Fuji
Aiming to make one fewer pit stop than their rivals over the course of the race, the Signatech-Alpine went for a different strategy. At the end of the first stint, Nicolas Lapierre handed over driving duties to Stéphane Richelmi. Following the double stint of Gustavo Menezes, Lapierre got back behind the wheel for the closing stages of the race. In touch with the leaders right to the end, he took the chequered flag in third position.
The season will draw to a close in two weeks' time at the 6 Hours of Bahrain (19 November)
"I've had an exceptional weekend. It's been excellent spending time with David, Ho-Pin and Jackie Chan! Shanghai may well be several thousand miles from France, but it has been something of a home away from home with the fabulous welcome we have had here. As regards the race, we had to fit hard tyres for my two stints, just as the track was at its hottest. The tyres never really worked properly and I had to fight with understeer throughout. Apart from that, everything went well in the traffic. Congratulations to the no.36 Signatech-Alpine, the guys really deserve their title!"
"In Fuji, we had good pace, something we struggled to find here. It was close on the opening corner, with one car stopped in the middle of the track. Fortunately, I managed to avoid it! And then there was the incident with a GT at the end of the start-finish line. There were five cars all together, and I couldn't do anything when it cut across me. Fortunately, the team did a great job and we were able to continue. It was a special weekend, with a lot of supporters and all the Baxi DC Racing Alpine's partners. We're delighted to share the title celebrations with the no.36!"
"Every year, the WEC enjoys more and more success in China. It was fantastic to see the big Shanghai stand full for the start. We were proud and happy to have Jackie Chan with us this weekend. There were so many commitments that it was sometimes difficult to concentrate on the race. Going with hard tyres for qualifying and part of the race was probably not the best option. However, the car worked well with the medium tyres. Ho-Pin and Paul-Loup had a good race and I'm also pleased with my stints. The weekend went by incredibly quickly and I'm a bit sad that it's already over…"
"We knew what our objective was this weekend. After finishing all the races without having any mechanical issues or crashes, we were focusing on winning the title. The track was very demanding on the tyres and we were cautious in our choices. At the end of the race, I didn't try to get past the no.43, because I knew that fourth place was enough. I'm proud to win this world title for Alpine, after what has been an exceptional season!"
"This wasn't easiest race, but the main thing was to win the title for Alpine before Bahrain. Today, my stint followed Nicolas and Gustavo, who had driven on the hard tyres. I feel like I drove well, setting consistent times and making good progress in the traffic. We are going to keep working and we'll be determined to finish the year on a high note in Bahrain!"
"This is the greatest season of my career! We would have loved to do better today, but we had to focus on the bigger picture. We won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the LMP2 championship! Personally speaking, I'm also very proud to have won in Austin. The team did a fantastic job once again. Our tyre strategy wasn't ideal, but that's what we had to do in order to achieve our goal. Bruno Senna apologised after his little mistake. These things happen and there's no problem between us."
LMP2 STANDINGS FOR THE 6 HOURS OF SHANGHAI
1. G-Drive Racing no.26 180 laps
2. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.30 + 1 lap
3. RGR Sport by Morand no.43 +1 pts
4. Signatech-Alpine no.36 +1 lap
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.31 + 1 lap
6. SMP Racing no.27 +3 laps
7. SMP Racing no. 37 +3 laps
8. Baxi DC Racing Alpine no.35 +4 laps
9. Manor no.44 +6 laps
FIA LMP2 ENDURANCE TROPHY (UNOFFICIAL)
1. Signatech-Alpine no.36 183 pts
2. RGR Sport by Morand no.43 151 pts
3. G-Drive Racing no.26 140 pts
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.31 104 pts
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.30 68 pts
6. Strakka Racing no.42 66 pts
7. SMP Racing no.37 65 pts
8. SMP Racing no.27 58 pts
9. Baxi DC Racing Alpine no.35 34 pts
10. Manor no.44 26 pts
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Alpine Press Officer
+33 1 76 84 64 83 / +33 6 72 84 63 24
Signatech-Alpine Press Officer
+33 6 64 13 84 49
Media Contact: Renault Press - +33·1·76·84·63·36
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