The Signatech Alpine Matmut rounded off the European leg of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a podium at the Nürburgring.
The no.36 Alpine A470 (Lapierre / Menezes / Rao) overcame a difficult qualifying session to grab third place and set the fastest race lap in the LMP2 category.
Unfortunately, gearbox problems meant that the no.35 car (Panciatici / Negrão / Ragues) had to retire two hours into the race.
The next round takes Signatech Alpine Matmut to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City (1-3 September).
After valuable information was gathered during free practice, qualifying saw the no.35 Alpine A470 driven by Nelson Panciatici and André Negrão set the fourth fastest time, two places ahead of the no.36 car driven by Matt Rao and Gustavo Menezes.
On Sunday, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring got underway at 1pm. Despite the dark clouds overhead and damp patches remaining on the track, 52,000 spectators flocked to the famous circuit for the final European round of this year's FIA WEC.
The Alpine A470s enjoyed an eventful start to the race. After spinning on the third corner, Nelson Panciatici (no.35) gave it his all to make up the lost ground before coming into the pits to serve the 30-second stop-and-go penalty collected in qualifying. Meanwhile, Nicolas Lapierre (no.36) lost a position before matching the pace of the leading group, featuring Senna, Beche, Jarvis and Petrov.
During the first round of refuelling pit stops, Nicolas Lapierre returned to the track in the middle of the LMP1s. The Frenchman lost a few tenths that ending up temporarily costing him fifth place, before he then hit back.
Nelson Panciatici was the first to hand over driving duties to André Negrão. After rejoining in ninth, the Brazilian made every effort to move back up the field until his progress was halted when the gearbox jammed. Despite the best efforts of the Signatech Alpine Matmut team to solve the problem, the no.35 crew had to retire.
At the same time, Gustavo Menezes took over behind the wheel of the no.36 car from Nicolas Lapierre. Fourth at the start of his stint, the American put his rivals under pressure and managed to move up into third place by the half-way stage of the race, before handing over to Matt Rao.
The young British driver then did his bit, completing a double stint with a tyre change sandwiched in between. Keeping in touch with the heavyweight competitors up the road, Matt Rao refused to give up and handed over to Nicolas Lapierre with a podium place within the crew's sights.
With no more than two seconds between the cars challenging for the podium places throughout most of the race, everything was settled in the final hour. With forty minutes of the race left, the Frenchman produced a stunning lap, enabling him to overcut Beche and come out of the pits ahead of the Swiss.
Carefully managing this advantage, the no.36 car crossed the finishing line in front. The crew could therefore celebrate their first podium and Signatech Alpine Matmut's second this season.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director
"That was a hell of a race, quite literally! I'd like to thank everyone in the team for this result. They all kept going, stuck together, pushed to the very limit, and most importantly, never stopped believing that we could secure this third place. This performance is what Alpine is all about and the result, on such a tough circuit as the Nürburgring, shows the qualities of the A470. We are going to savour this second podium of the year, whilst also learning the lessons of the weekend. We're already looking forward to Mexico!"
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
"Sometimes, a podium can be morale-boosting and worth as much as a win, and today's result is one of those times. We really had to sweat blood and tears to get back into contention. After a fairly average qualifying session, we initially suffered in the traffic before realising that tyre degradation wasn't as much of an issue as it had been earlier in the year. We were therefore able to push, even though it's always difficult to overtake on this track. Matt was fantastic today and laid the groundwork for Nico. It was in part down to his performance that we can celebrate and enjoy this proper podium together with the whole team."
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36
"It was a tough race. Our performance in qualifying meant we lost time in the traffic, but we managed to find a way through and make it onto the podium. Our pace was good today and the performance level has improved since Le Mans. We now have to work on a few details to try and do even better in Mexico."
"We overcame our difficulties to make it onto the podium. Nico began with two incredible stints before handing over to me. I had to manage the traffic, but I then closed the gap before seeing the fine performance of Matt, who was able to match the pace of the best drivers today! After a disappointing start to the season, the team has managed to get back into contention and we're really pleased to finally get a swig of the champagne!"
"I'm delighted to have been able to keep in touch with the Platinum and Gold drivers! My only regret is that I lost time behind the LMP2 backmarkers before my in-lap. That held me up in the traffic for longer. We might have been able to get second place without that, but by keeping the gap to third to around a second, Nico was able to finish the job and secure the podium for us."
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.35
"We were looking to have a decent race, despite the penalty, but that became tricky after the spin on the first lap. After less than two hours, the gearbox failure put an end to our hopes."
"It just wasn't our weekend. We had made progress in free practice thanks to a new differential, but the stop-go penalty and the chaotic start seriously compromised our chances. Nelson had a good stint before handing over to me, but the gearbox jammed. All our attempts to repair it proved futile."
"This result isn't what we were expecting. We were really determined to fight for a podium spot, but after encouraging free practice and good preparations, we suffered in qualifying. Nelson and André had set a decent pace before mechanical problems spelled the end of our race. It's all the more disappointing because I didn't get the chance to drive the car."
6 Hours of Nürburgring – LMP2
1. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 191 laps
2. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 +1 lap
3. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 +1 lap
4. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 +1 lap
5. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 +2 laps
6. G-Drive Racing no.26 +3 laps
7. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 +3 laps
8. TDS Racing no.28 +3 laps
9. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 +8 laps
Retired Tockwith Motorsports no.34
Retired Signatech Alpine Matmut no.35
FIA Endurance LMP2 "Teams" Trophy
1. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 116 points
2. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 70 points
3. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 – 57 points
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 – 51 points
5. G-Drive Racing no.26 – 46 points
6. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 – 40 points
7. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.35 – 38 points
8. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 – 26 points
9. TDS Racing no.28 – 21 points
10. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 – 16 points