Alpine, from one centenary to another

Alpine, from one centenary to another

24 HOURS CENTENARY – MAKES, MARQUES AND IMPRINTS ⎮ This year, Alpine celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of its founder Jean Rédélé (1922-2007). The immense legacy that made a significant impact on the 1960s has been brilliantly revived over the last ten years by Signatech Alpine. The marque’s many fans eagerly wait to see what Philippe Sinault has in store for the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary.

In the words of Philippe Sinault, who now defends the make’s French Racing Blue colours in endurance, “Alpine is synonymous with doing things differently, especially at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A form of ingenious frugality, to borrow Jean Rédélé’s catchphrase, particularly against manufacturers with greater resources.” When Rédélé (1922-2007) founded Alpine in 1955, he came up with the name in reference to the winding roads of the Alps, one of his favourite playgrounds as a driver. The legend was cemented in rallies during the 1970s with the famous A110 – dubbed the “Berlinette” – after taking shape at the 24 Hours of Le Mans a decade earlier.

1963-1969: the first ascents

Alpine first took the Le Mans chequered flag in 1964 with a 17th place achieved by Roger de Lageneste/Henry Morrogh, with Roger Masson/Teodoro Zeccoli finishing three spots further down the standings. Two years later, the marque broke into the Top Ten thanks to the A210’s successful maiden appearance. Leo Cella/Henri Grandire took ninth place, ahead of Jacques Cheinisse/Roger de Lageneste (11th), Robert Bouharde/Guy Verrier (12th) and Mauro Bianchi/Jean Vinatier (13th).

This was the beginning of a purple patch for Alpine. In 1967, Henri Grandsire/José Rosinski were ninth and André de Cortanze/Alain Le Guellec tenth. Then the delayed 1968 race saw André de Cortanze/Jean Vinatier, Alain le Guellec/Alain Serpaggi and Jean-Luc Thérier/Bernard Tramont follow each other home in eighth, ninth and tenth positions. From its début in 1963 to 1969, Alpine notched up six class wins and had 16 cars classified at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This principle of “ingenious frugality”, a subtle blend nation of simplicity, reliability and consistency, has been resurrected in the last decade.

2013-2020: new peaks

The return of French Racing Blue Alpines to endurance in the LMP2 class was initiated by former driver Carlos Tavares, Renault’s Chief Operating Officer at the time. “This David versus Goliath spirit has always been the trademark of Alpine and Jean Rédélé, the marque’s founder in 1955, who spotted the potential of the Renault 4 CV by developing it for racing,” says Tavares, now Executive Director of Stellantis. He entrusted the programme to Philippe Sinault and Signatech Alpine was born.

Results soon followed on the track. In the European Le Mans Series, Signatech Alpine clinched two successive Team and Driver titles in 2013 and 2014. The French team also made the third step of the LMP2 podium at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking seventh place overall.

Signatech Alpine graduated to the FIA World Endurance Championship the following year, claimed an LMP2 win in Shanghai in its début season and quickly became a leading force in the category. Between 2016 and 2020, blue A460 or A470 prototypes racked up three Le Mans class wins (2016, 2018, 2019) with two Top Five places in the overall classification (fifth in 2016 and 2019). It also claimed two world titles (2016 and the 2018-19 Super Season), with a total of eight victories.

2021-2022: the Hypercar summit

In 2021 Alpine moved up to Hypercar, the successor to LMP1 as the premier class in endurance. The switch brought the marque its first overall podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the third place obtained by Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxivière.

In March 2022, Alpine became the first French manufacturer to win a FIA World Endurance Championship race outright – a fitting way to launch the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jean Rédélé that were held on 28-29 May in Dieppe, the marque’s historic heartland in Normandy. “This celebration brings a great deal of meaning to what we do,” says Sinault. “It creates an awareness of our history and the fact that, today, we are its flag-bearers.” Signatech Alpine flew that flag high again this year. With two wins at Sebring and Monza, the trio of Lapierre, Negrão and Vaxivière challenged the Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryō Hirakawa for the world endurance drivers’ title right up to the final race of the season in Bahrain.

To accompany Alpine’s renaissance, a brand-new version of the iconic A110 entered the showrooms in 2017 and the 2022 Paris Motor Show saw the unveiling of the Alpenglow concept car. Will this be the basis for the future Alpine Hypercar expected in 2024? And will 2023 see a return to the LMP2 class for the centenary of the 24 Hours and the 60th anniversary of the marque’s first Le Mans appearance? Sinault has that mischievous look in his eye: “In any case, you can count on us to do something original next year!”

PHOTOS: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS – FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (© ACO ARCHIVES): the Alpine A480 at the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans; in 1968, André de Cortanze and Jean Vinatier led a clutch of four Alpines that took eighth to 11th place; the chequered flag at the 2019 24 Hours signals a third LMP2 class win in four years; Alpine’s step up to the Hypercar class was heralded by a parade before the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the Alpine Hypercar and Formula One single-seater surrounded by present-day versions of the iconic A110.

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