André de Cortanze, from Alpine to Peugeot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

André de Cortanze, from Alpine to Peugeot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

During the second half of the 1960s, as Charles de Cortanze involved himself with the creation of the Bugatti circuit after giving Peugeot its earliest triumphs at the 24 Hours three decades earlier, his son André was doing the same for Alpine…before playing a part in Peugeot's successful return to Le Mans in the early 1990s.

In 1966, André de Cortanze was forced to retire at the 24 Hours of Le Mans while four Alpines made it to the chequered flag, led by Leo Cella and Henri Grandsire (ninth). The following year, he finished in 10th place with Alain le Guellec. Three other Alpines were classed thanks to Henri Grandsire/José Rosinski, Jacques Cheinisse/Roger de Lageneste and Mauro Bianchi/Jean Vinatier (ninth, 12th and 13th respectively).

In 1968, de Cortanze achieved his best result at the 24 Hours, also considered an excellent showing for Alpine, with in order André de Cortanze/Jean Vinatier (eighth), Alain le Guellec/Alain Serpaggi (ninth), Jean-Luc Thérier/Bernard Tramon (10th) and Christian Ethuin/Bob Wollek (11th).

PHOTO ABOVE (Copyright - ACO Archives): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 28-29 SEPTEMBER 1968. At the wheel of the #30 Alpine A220, André de Cortanze and Jean Vinatier pulled off a stunning hat trick with four Alpines finishing from eighth to 11th places.

On the heels of this impressive series of results for Alpine, de Cortanze became a project manager for the Renault-Alpine programme at Le Mans which included a win for Jean-Pierre Jaussaud/Didier Pironi in 1978). Then, more than 50 years after his father Charles' top 10 finishes in 1937 et 1938, André proved a key player in yet another glorious chapter in Peugeot's history at the 24 Hours.

In 1988, as the head of the French marque's sporting activities, Jean Todt initiated Peugeot's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, entrusting the role of technical director to de Cortanze, subsequent designer of the 905.

In the wake of a promising appearance in 1991, the 905 gave Peugeot its first two wins at the race, with Mark Blundell/Yannick Dalmas/Derek Warwick in 1992 then Christophe Bouchut/Geoff Brabham/Eric Hélary in 1993. That year, the car even scored a hat trick with Thierry Boutsen/Yannick Dalmas/Teo Fabi (second) and Philippe Alliot/Mauro Baldi/Jean-Pierre Jabouille (third). To these two triumphs were added two consecutive pole positions for Alliot (1992 and 1993) and a third place finish in in 1992, already with Baldi and Jabouille.

PHOTOS: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), 1992 and 1993 24 HOURS OF LE MANS. Above (Copyright - Christian Vignon/ACO Archives), the three Peugeot 905s during Scrutineering for the 1993 race. The #1 (Mark Blundell/Yannick Dalmas/Derek Warwick) and the #2 (Philippe Alliot/Mauro Baldi/Jean-Pierre Jabouille) finished first and third respectively as the #31 (Alain Ferté/Eric van de Poele/Karl Wendlinger) was forced to retire. Below (Copyright - ACO Archives), the 905 winner in 1993. Along with Australian driver Geoff Brabham, Frenchmen Christophe Bouchut and Eric Hélary won their rookie participation in the race.

More than half a century after his father Charles' successes (eighth in 1937 and fifth in 1938), André helped the de Cortanze name make history with Peugeot once again at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This remarkable family saga is all the more relevant today as Alpine faces off against Toyota in 2021 and with the expected return of Peugeot in 2022.

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