Three weeks after the new Alpine A110 Première Édition was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, Alpine present its motorsport programme for the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The Brand's stunning new showroom in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, was chosen as the venue to unveil the Alpine A470, alongside last year's World Championship-winning A460 and the A110 Première Édition.
For Alpine fans, 2016 season is still very fresh in the memory. In addition to race wins at Spa-Francorchamps, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Nürburgring and Austin, the three drivers – Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stéphane Richelmi – also showed great consistency throughout the season to win the LMP2 Drivers' and Teams' titles.
After sweeping all before them last year, it would have been unthinkable for Alpine not to defend its titles. A little over two weeks before the start of the 2017 season, the French marque unveiled its formidable line-up!
"This year, with the commercial launch of the new Alpine A110 and after such a magnificent season in 2016, we hope and expect that the success of the Signatech Alpine Matmut team in Endurance will be a major boost for our marketing strategy. The A110 bears all the hallmarks of the Alpine brand, for which racing is extremely important," emphasized Michael Van der Sande, Managing Director of Alpine.
A REVOLUTION IN THE LMP2 CATEGORY
For the 2017 season, the LMP2 category has undergone a major transformation, with the application of new technical regulations and a new generation of cars with substantially improved performance.
The FIA has homologated four chassis and chosen a single engine supplier for all competitors. The Alpine A470s will therefore be powered by 600bhp V8 engines supplied by Gibson Technology.
The Alpine A470 chassis reuses the monocoque design and some mechanical components from the A460. Oreca's work focused on integrating the new powertrain and on aerodynamics. Obtained following extensive work using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), the contours of the A470 reveal a level of refinement never previously attained on cars in the LMP2 category!
After development testing, Nicolas Lapierre was unable to contain his enthusiasm: "With a car like the Alpine A470, the LMP2 class is really entering a new era. The feeling behind the wheel was very good straight away. The attention that has been paid to every detail is impressive and it means that the handling is excellent. I can’t wait to get back out on the track."
With ten cars competing in the World Championship, the LMP2 category is certain to be very hotly contested. The fact that all the teams have very similar equipment means that performance levels are likely to be very close. It will come down to the talent of the operations team and the drivers to make a difference!
TWO TOP-LEVEL CREWS
To defend the titles won last year, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team will be counting not just on six, but seven world class drivers!
In the no.36 Alpine A470, two of the three reigning World Champions remain in this year's driver line-up: the Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and the American Gustavo Menezes. They will be joined by a newcomer, British driver Matt Rao.
Nevertheless, Alpine has given Nicolas Lapierre permission to drive for a manufacturer competing in the LMP1-H class. For the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Thonon-les-Bains driver will therefore have the chance to go for outright victory with Toyota. He will be replaced for these two races by Romain Dumas, the reigning LMP1 World Champion and two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
Signatech Alpine Matmut is incredibly proud to be welcoming one of the very best drivers in the world of Endurance racing. Romain will bring his speed and racecraft to bear in helping the entire team to make progress.
The second Signatech Alpine Matmut crew looks pretty impressive too. Nelson Panciatici will be pursuing his career with Alpine in the no.35 A470. He will be joined by a familiar face in the shape of Pierre Ragues, back with the French marque after winning the ELMS title with the team in 2013. An experienced driver in single-seater racing, especially the GP2 Series, the talented Brazilian André Negrão will complete the no.35 line-up.
Both Alpine A470s will be taking part in the FIA WEC prologue – the official pre-season test – held this coming weekend in Monza (1-2 April). The no.36 will be the only car competing in the championship's opening race, the 6 Hours of Silverstone. The no.35 car will therefore make its competitive debut at Spa-Francorchamps.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director: "We are very proud to inaugurate Alpine's new Boulogne-Billancourt showroom by presenting our 2017 motorsport programme. Nestled between the World Championship-winning Alpine A460 and the limited edition Alpine A110 Première Édition, the A470 cannot disguise its ambitions! There is both a heritage to defend and the launch of a new model to support with positive results. Once again, we have tried to put forward our strongest suit to live up to our status as reigning champions. The big news of the day is obviously the fact that Romain Dumas has joined the Alpine family. We are incredibly proud to have a driver with such a fantastic record on our team. We certainly needed someone talented to replace Nicolas Lapierre, who we wish all the very best for the two races he'll be contesting 'away' from his home team. The Alpine A470 looks very impressive and we have great faith that Philippe Sinault's team will go after further success in 2017. Our goals are clear: we are here to defend the titles we won last year."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal: "After a lot of hard work over the winter, we have two very good cars, with a remarkably high quality of finish. Like last year, we will need to overhaul a good portion of the operations work but this time around, we will at least be on an equal footing with our championship rivals. When Nicolas Lapierre told us about the opportunity he had been offered to challenge for outright victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we didn't hesitate to release him. We then had to find a suitable replacement. But I think that having Romain Dumas as one of your drivers is a dream come true for any endurance team! We are delighted to keep working with Gustavo Menezes and Nelson Panciatici, to have Pierre Ragues back with us and to welcome Matt Rao and André Negrão. After a magnificent season in 2016 with Alpine, Stéphane Richelmi has taken up a great opportunity to drive for a top team in the GT class and we wish him the very best. For this year's World Championship, I think we can safely say we have two crews who are very motivated to do the Alpine brand proud!"
SIGNATECH ALPINE MATMUT NO.36 CAR DRIVERS
NICOLAS LAPIERRE (FRA)
Born on 2 April 1984 in Thonon-les-Bains (France)
FIA driver category: Platinum
Nicolas began his career in single-seater racing, winning the 2003 Macao GP with the Signature team as part of the F3 Euroseries. He switched to Endurance in 2008 and enjoyed his first victories with Team Oreca Matmut. In 2012, he finished third in the FIA WEC with Toyota. During the three seasons he spent with the Japanese manufacturer, he won six World Championship races. After coming first in the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015, he joined Signatech-Alpine for the 2016 campaign. At the end of a dream-like season, during which he secured four race wins – including the 24 Hours of Le Mans – he claimed the LMP2 Drivers' and Teams' titles.
ROMAIN DUMAS (FRA)
Born on 14 December 1977 in Alès (France)
FIA driver category: Platinum
Whilst coming close to racing in Formula 1, Romain Dumas quickly realised that Endurance would provide him with the best career opportunities. Over the last fifteen years or more, he has built up a singularly impressive competitive record. Although he won his first 24 Hours of Le Mans with Audi in 2010, his name is most closely associated with Porsche. He claimed two ALMS titles with the German marque, five victories in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring and the FIA WEC world title last year, as well as adding a second outright victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans! An eclectic driver, Romain is forever taking on new challenges, from competing in the WRC or the Dakar Rally to tackling Pikes Peak.
GUSTAVO MENEZES (USA)
Born on 19 September 1994 in Los Angeles (USA)
FIA driver category: Gold
One of a new generation of talented American drivers, Gustavo Menezes has acquired a good deal of experience in some of the most competitive categories. Having competed in Formula Renault 2.0, the Star Mazda series and F3, the Californian experienced Endurance racing for the first time when competing in a few races of the American United Sports Car championship, including the 24 Hours of Daytona. Noticed by Philippe Sinault, he joined the Signatech-Alpine team for the 2016 season. Last year's real surprise package, he impressed during some incredible stints that helped secure the LMP2 title for the no.36 Alpine A460!
MATT RAO (GBR)
Born on 3 May 1994 in Toulouse (France)
FIA driver category: Silver
Like many young British drivers, Matt cut his teeth in Formula Ford. Runner-up in the Scholarship Class in 2011 and Champion in 2012, he stepped up to race in Formula Renault and then in Formula 3. He finished as runner-up in the 2014 British F3 Championship before moving up again to join the European Championship. In 2016, he switched to the FIA WEC. Driving for the Manor team, he grabbed an LMP2 podium at Spa-Francorchamps and took pole position in Shanghai. He joins therefore Signatech Alpine Matmut for the new season with a year's experience in the category under his belt, looking to aim even higher in 2017!
SIGNATECH ALPINE MATMUT NO.35 CAR DRIVERS
NELSON PANCIATICI (FRA)
Born on 26 September 1988 in Reims (France)
FIA driver category: Platinum
Son of the famous rally driver, Nelson Panciatici joined the Renault Driver Development programme after impressing in Formula Renault 2.0. After moving up the ranks of single-seater racing and close to a birth in F1, he switched to Endurance in 2012. He wasted no time in showing off his talent with the Signatech-Alpine team, securing two ELMS titles (2013/2014), a podium finish at the 24 Hours of Mans (2014) and his first race win in the FIA WEC (2015). In 2016, he spent most of the season in the no.35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine, but suffered a chronic run of bad luck, especially at Le Mans when he was let down by the car when on course to secure a podium.
PIERRE RAGUES (FRA)
Born on 10 January 1984 in Caen (France)
FIA driver category: Silver
Runner-up in the 2003 French Formula Campus, Pierre Ragues competed at his first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006. In 2008, he finished on the LMP2 podium with Saulnier Racing, before joining the Signature team the following year. In 2013, he was part of the crew that secured Signatech-Alpine's first ELMS title, alongside Nelson Panciatici and Tristan Gommendy. An eminent karting driver until 2013, Pierre has also been known to express his passion for motorsport by taking part in the French Rally Championship. An eclectic approach entirely in keeping with Alpine's traditions!
ANDRÉ NEGRÃO (BRA)
Born on 17 June 1992 in Sao Paulo (Brazil)
FIA driver category: Silver
Like his more famous predecessors, André Negrão crossed the Atlantic to acquire experience racing in Europe. He has taken part in more than 150 races in Formula Renault 2.0, FR3.5 and GP2 since making his debut in 2008. He never lost interest in the American continent, however, since he was runner up in the Brazilian F3 championship in 2010 and 2012. Last year, he was seventh in the Indy Lights series in the United States. André will therefore be making his competitive debut in Endurance this year with Signatech Alpine Matmut.
1-2 April: Prologue at Monza (Italy)
16 April: 6 Hours of Silverstone (United Kingdom)
6 May: WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium)
4 June: 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day (France)
17-18 June: 24 Hours of Mans (France)
16 July: 6 Hours of Nürburgring (Germany)
3 September: 6 Hours of Mexico (Mexico)
16 September: 6 Hours of Austin (United States)
15 October: 6 Hours of Fuji (Japan)
5 November: 6 Hours of Shanghai (China)
18 November: 6 Hours of Bahrain (Bahrain)