The week of the 24 Hours of Le Mans got underway on Wednesday, with free practice followed by the first qualifying session.
At the end of this initial competitive outing, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team's two A470s finished in sixth (no.36) and seventh (no.35) positions.
The starting grid for the race will be finalised tomorrow evening, after two further timed sessions.
As a heatwave swept across the whole of France, the 85th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans got underway in sultry conditions with on-track temperatures exceeding 50°C. At 4pm, the sixty competitors headed out onto the track for four hours of free practice.
The Signatech Alpine Matmut team split the work between its two cars, with the aim of preparing for the race. During this initial session, the Alpine A470 ran endurance tests on the tyres, with two different types of tyre.
Following a two-hour break, the first qualifying session began around twenty minutes late. Nelson Panciatici (no.35) and Gustavo Menezes (no.36) immediately attempted to set a fast time. Despite the traffic, Nelson set the third fastest time in the LMP2 category at that point. A few minutes later, Gustavo went slightly quicker, shaving off a few tenths to set a time of 3:31.065.
In the second part of the session, Romain Dumas also attempted a qualifying run in the no.36 Alpine A470. Once again, heavy traffic prevented the French driver from improving on Gustavo's time.
When the chequered flag was shown to signal the end of this opening session, the Alpine A470s held the sixth and seventh fastest times in the LMP2 class. Tomorrow, qualifying continues with two further two-hour sessions, scheduled to start at 7pm and 10pm.
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
"Following the Test Day, we knew that we had very good one-lap speed, since we set the fastest times in each session. Today, we therefore decided to focus on race preparations. At the start of free practice, the track was still dirty and slippery, but it improved and so we adjusted the set-up accordingly. We completed long series of laps with the same set of tyres and the drivers were pleased with the handling of the Alpines. During this first qualifying session, we were aiming to make sure of setting times just in case there is rain in tomorrow's sessions. The traffic prevented our drivers from dipping under the 3:30 mark, but we hope to manage to do that tomorrow."
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.35 car
"Free practice was productive, we did a good job as a team by trying two separate types of tyres and by cross-referencing the data gathered. With less traffic, my qualifying runs would have been better by more than a second. It's a bit frustrating but that's part and parcel of qualifying at Le Mans. If it doesn't rain, I think that we have a good chance of securing pole position tomorrow because we are still a long way off the times we set during the Test Day."
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 car
"You can't really say that our times were very quick today. Romain and I both got caught up in traffic on our fastest laps. For example, I lost close to two seconds between the Porsche Curves and the start/finish line. It is therefore difficult to really say where everyone stands this evening. With a clear lap, we would definitely be in the top three. We'll see if we can manage it tomorrow!"
LMP2 qualifying standings
1. TDS Racing no.28 – 3:29.33
2. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 3:29.851
3. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 – 3:30.502
4. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 – 3:30.847
5. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 3:31.024
6. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 – 3:31.065
7. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.35 – 3:31.439
8. G-Drive Racing no.22 – 3:31.963