Much like Signatech-Alpine’s previous two outings at Silverstone in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) in 2013 and 2014, the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the British circuit proved to be a delicate one.
A puncture during practice failed to derail preparations for the squad, as Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Vincent Capillaire successfully completed their programme for the six-hour race.
Chatin and Capillaire both took turns behind the wheel of the team’s Alpine A450b during the qualifying session, lapping third-quickest amongst the LMP2 contenders and lining up fourth in class based on aggregate fastest times (by one ‘gold’ and one ‘silver’ nominated driver).
Chatin began the race, but just 20 laps in – and sitting fifth in class – the Alpine lost its rear left wheel, sending the Frenchman off the track. The resulting big impact spelled the end of the team’s challenge.
Philippe Sinault (Signatech-Alpine Team Principal): “We’re disappointed on two fronts. Obviously we have scored no points and, to compound matters, retiring so early meant we weren’t able to take much information away from this first real showdown against our main rivals. We still need to understand just how the car came to lose one of its wheels during the race. Thankfully, Paul-Loup wasn’t hurt. We are sure it wasn’t down to human error – neither by the driver nor the team. This is our first failure to finish a race in three seasons; our reliability has been so strong that we had forgotten that this kind of thing is part-and-parcel of the challenge of endurance racing. The positive aspect is that we were running at the pace we had expected. We are accustomed now to difficult curtain-raisers at Silverstone, so let’s hope that the end of the season will be as successful as it has been for the past two years! First of all, we need to focus on a strong performance at Spa in three weeks’ time and, before then, we have a lot of work ahead of us to return our Alpine A450b to peak form.”
Paul-Loup Chatin: “Our speed in qualifying was pretty positive with the third-fastest time. For my first race start in the Alpine A450b, I set myself the target of looking after the tyres with a full tank of fuel on-board. As the fuel increasingly burnt off, I was able to push a bit harder. Everything was going to-plan until I reached Copse on the 21st lap, when I felt what I initially thought was a puncture at the left-rear. I knew I would need to be careful to keep the car on the track, but the wheel then came off and we still don’t know why. Everything happened very quickly, and I hit the tyre barriers quite hard. It’s a real shame, because we wanted to learn a lot from this race.”
LMP2 classification – 6 Hours of Silverstone
1. G-Drive Racing #26 185 laps
2. G-Drive Racing #28 +1 lap
3. Extreme Speed Motorsports #30 +2 laps
4. Strakka Racing #42 +7 laps
5. KCMG #47 +18 laps
6. Oak Racing # 35 +20 laps
7. Extreme Speed Motorsports #31 +20 laps