Rumors have been floating recently that the new cooperation between Alpine and Caterham will give birth to a new sports car. While that has surely driven intrigue into this still-to-be-named model, it’s still part of the not-so-distant future.
What is recent, though, is Alpine’s apparent return to 24-hour racing and it’s got quite a racecar in its fold ready to take on all comers. Called the A450, the race car is expected to bring the extra excitement to endurance racing at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours and this year’s European Le Mans Series (ELMS). The car will be raced by the 24-year-old Nelson Panciatici and 29-year-old Pierre Ragues. This marks Alpine’s return to the world of motorsport after an absence of 35 years.
The new Alpine A450 will be powered by a Nissan-sourced V-8 engine that delivers a total of 500 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed sequential X-Trac gearbox. With a total weight of just 1984 pounds, the new race car will hit a pretty impressive top speed of 205 mph.
Speaking of impressive, have a look at the A450; it’s all that and then a little more. The brand’s striking blue and orange color combination harkens back to the days of the Alpine-Renault A442B that raced the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1978. If for nothing else, it’s a fitting tribute to the company’s racing history while also serving a reminder to the rest of the field that Alpine is back and ready to take some names.
Updated 04/10/2013: Alpine officially confirmed today that its first racing car in 35 years will be called A450. The model pays tribute to the A441, A442 and A443 which scored amazing results at the Le Mans in the 1970s. The figure "50" "symbolizes the fiftieth anniversary of Alpine’s first official entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours." The new A450 will be available for purchase in 2016.
Alpine’s racing history
Alpine’s first racecar was the M63, which raced the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unfortunately, this car was involved in a fatal accident which took the life of Brazilian driver Christian Heins.
Over the next few years, the company developed a series of other Le Mans prototypes, but none of them scored impressive results during the race. Alpine saw its first racing success with the unveiling of the A441 and A442 racing cars that competed in the 1976, 1977 and 1978 Le Mans races. In 1978, an A442B finally won the race with Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud behind the wheel.
The company’s last Le Mans prototype was the A443, which also raced the 1978 Le Mans. This model was the class of its field, lapping in less than 3 minutes 40 seconds.
After an absence of 16 years, Porsche will also return to the racing field for the 2014 Le Mans. The company announced no details on the car to be raced in 2014, but we’re sure it’ll be an updated version of the RS Spyder. The previous version was powered by a 3.4-liter V-8 engine that delivered a total of 440 horsepower.
Audi’s R18 e-Tron is powered by a 510-horsepower, V-6 TDI engine combined with two electric motors that power the front wheels. The car also uses kinetic energy that’s recovered whenever the car brakes, storing that energy in the flywheel accumulator as electricity.
It was a little less than 35 years ago that the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Alpine-Renault A442B paraded down the Champs-Elysées in front of a cheering crowd who turned out to show their appreciation for the car’s success in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi. Today, the Parisian public and visitors to the French capital have another chance to discover the A442B, since it is one of the centrepieces of the ‘No Limit!’ exhibition which is currently running at L’Atelier Renault (until April 7).
The Champs Elysees premises consequently provided the ideal backdrop for the revelation of the new Alpine prototype which is poised to compete in this year’s endurance racing season. Société des Automobiles Alpine-Caterham’s CEO Bernard Ollivier and Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal, lifted the veil to reveal a striking blue and orange livery which recalls the colours sported by the Alpines which raced at Le Mans some five decades ago.
“Since the announcement of Alpine’s revival on November 5 last year, we have been moving forward step by step,” said Bernard Ollivier. “The unveiling of this splendid car marks the beginning of another phase. It will turn a wheel for the first time very soon, and its maiden race will follow shortly afterwards. The news of our endurance racing programme received a very positive welcome, not only from diehard Alpine enthusiasts, but also from the world of motor racing in general. We can hardly wait to see our brand’s colours in action!”
“I am extremely proud to be representing Alpine, but it as an honour which goes hand in hand with significant responsibilities,” noted Philippe Sinault. “The next step is to take the car to Paul Ricard where our work will begin in earnest. Our aim is to be competitive in endurance racing’s highly competitive LMP2 class. We will use the different test sessions that are planned, as well as the first two rounds of the ELMS, to prepare for June’s Le Mans 24 Hours which is clearly the focal point of the season.”
The drivers who have been named to share the N°36 Alpine-Renault form a blend of experience and youth, and all three are keen to get behind its wheel. Nelson Panciatici, 24, and Pierre Ragues, 29, who were confirmed at the time of the programme’s original announcement, will be joined for the Le Mans 24 Hours by 34-year old Tristan Gommendy. The three Frenchmen all rose up through the ranks of Renault’s single-seater formulae and, between them, total 10 previous participations in the world’s most famous motor race. Another French youngster, Paul-Loup Chatin, has been chosen as the car’s reserve driver.
Press Release 2
As a tribute to the Alpines which raced at Le Mans in the 1970s, the ‘LM P2’ prototype run by Signatech-Alpine has been christened ‘Alpine A450’.
“Alpine’s return to motor racing marks the beginning of a new adventure for this legendary brand,” says Carlos Tavares, Renault’s Chief Operating Officer. “Although our focus is very much on the future, with the development of a new car which is due to reach the market in 2016, we have not forgotten Alpine’s extraordinary heritage."
“The name Alpine A450 stood out as a natural choice for this prototype which will contest the ELMS and the Le Mans 24 Hours. It pays tribute to the A441, A442 and A443 which raced at and – in the case of the A442B – won at Le Mans in the 1970s. The figure ‘50’ symbolises the fiftieth anniversary of Alpine’s first official entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
The Alpine A450’s first competitive outing will be at Silverstone, United Kingdom, this weekend (April 13), with drivers Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues, almost 35 years after the Alpine-Renault A442B’s landmark victory at Le Mans in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi.
The Alpine A450 will be the very first car of the brand to take part in an official race at Silverstone.
Signatech-Alpine’s Team Principal Philippe Sinault is eager to see his drivers in action: “I’m thrilled to be in the exciting last stages of preparing for the Alpine A450’s debut in the European Le Mans Series. The news of this project got a warm reception in France and elsewhere. We had very little time to prepare for the season but our efforts have already born fruit, thanks notably to our very close collaboration with Michelin. Our first tests were very constructive, but only the race itself can confirm whether our work has been good enough.”
After securing the fastest lap-time at the ELMS pre-season test at Circuit Paul Ricard, France, in March, Nelson Panciatici has high hopes for the team’s maiden appearance: “Silverstone is one of my favourite circuits. All racing drivers adore the sequence through ‘Copse’, ‘Maggots’ and ‘Becketts’ which is key to a strong lap. You also need a nicely balanced car and that’s where the Alpine could have an edge. We have done some very good work in recent weeks and we are ready for the start of the season. I know that Alpine has the potential to succeed”
Pierre Ragues thoughts follow similar lines: “The Signatech-Alpine team has worked hard on the car’s development and has introduced a high number of small evolutions. We are heading in the right direction and Silverstone will be our first litmus test. It’s a race I would love to win but we need to keep our feet on the ground. Strategy promises to play a key role in a three-hour event like this. It will be up to us to make the most of the Alpine A450’s potential in order to start the season with a good points haul.”
The first round of the championship has attracted an entry of 25 cars, including 9 in the premier ‘LM P2’ class.
Tristan Gommendy, who will join Alpine as its third driver for the Le Mans 24 Hours, will also travel to Silverstone to continue familiarising himself with the team. Meanwhile, Alpine’s junior driver Paul-Loup Chatin will contest the race in an LM PC car.