The revival of Alpine, with the launch of the ‘Berlinette of the 21st Century’ in 2016, is founded on the legendary brand’s outstanding heritage. To showcase this link between the past and present, a number of Alpines will be in action at this year’s Le Mans Classic on 4th-6th July.
The biennial Le Mans Classic attracts an entry of several thousand participants who all share a common passion for cars. First organised in 2002, it provides spectators with an extraordinary look back at Le Mans 24 Hours races of the past through the presence of 450 cars split into distinct fields covering different periods from 1923 to 1979. It is a chance for the members of hundreds of clubs to get together, while the Le Mans Héritage Club ‘concours’ is one of the French event’s highlights.
For the seventh edition of the fixture, Renault Classic has entered three factory Alpines which will be driven by a number of famous drivers, including former Le Mans participants and celebrities from the automobile world.
Alpine M65: Piotr Frankowski (Poland) / Richard Meaden (Great Britain),Alpine-Renault A110 1300S: Jean-Pierre Prévost (France) / Christian Chambord (France),Renault-Alpine A443: Jean Ragnotti (France) / Alain Serpaggi (France).Alongside these three Alpines, other models of the brand have been entered for the ‘concours’ by private entrants.
The maiden appearance at Le Mans of one of the cars produced by the brand founded by Jean Rédélé dates back to 1963 when three Alpine M63s lined up for the start. That marked the beginning of an association with the race which covered three periods.
From 1963 to 1969, a number of ‘small’ Alpines were entered in a bid to win their class, as well as the performance and energy efficiency index prizes. This is known as the ‘blue’ period.
From 1973, when the brand was acquired by Renault, a new, ambitious campaign meant that Alpine was able to target overall victory. In 1976, the first Renault-Alpine of the so-called ‘yellow’ period qualified on pole position and posted the fastest race lap. Two years later, the programme was rewarded by Alpine’s historic Le Mans win in 1978.
Thirty-five years later, Alpine returned to Le Mans in 2013. The Alpine A450 prototype sported the same magnificent blue paintwork of its predecessors and was hoping for a strong finish in the race’s LM P2 class. That familiarisation participation was followed by seventh overall and a podium finish in the car’s class in 2014!
Class 4 (for models dating from 1962 until 1965): Alpine M65
This M65 from the Renault Classic collection will make its third consecutive start at Le Mans Classic.It was one of the two M65s that appeared at Le Mans in 1965, in the hands of Mauro Bianchi and Henri Grandsire who retired on Lap 32.The same chassis, after conversion into an Alpine A210, also raced in 1966 in the hands of Pauli Toivonen / Bengt Jansson (retired on Lap 217).For this year’s Le Mans Classic, this historical Alpine has been entered for two journalists: Poland’s Piotr Frankowski and UK’s Richard Meaden.Another Alpine, an A210, has been entered for Class 4. This car won the Energy Efficiency Prize in 1966 with Jacques Cheinisse and Roger De Lageneste.Class 5 (1966-1971): Alpine-Renault A110 1300SWhile Alpine frequently entered prototype cars for the Le Mans 24 Hours, a number of privateers chose models of the emblematic brand for the French endurance race. The famous Berlinette is undoubtedly one of the iconic cars of the second half of the 1960s.The 115hp Alpine A110 1300S entered for Le Mans Classic belongs to Jean-Pierre Prévost, a collector of Alpines and Renault sports cars who has already take part at the meeting with Alpine. He will share the car with fellow fan Christian Chambord who owns several Alpine A110s.Several Alpine A110s competed Le Mans in 1965 (one 1100cc) and in 1968 (two 1300cc).A 1969 Alpine A220 has also been entered. It will be driven by its owner Sylvain Stepak.Class 6 (1972-1979): Renault-Alpine A443
The most advanced of all Alpines – an evolution of the A442 and A442B - returns to Le Mans. It was the final car of the so-called ‘yellow’ period.In 1978, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Patrick Depailler qualified on the front row and emerged at the front of the field during the seventh hour after curing a vibration-related problem. Watched by 180,000 spectators, the most powerful Renault-Alpine ever built (2.2-litre 550hp V6 turbocharged engine) managed to pull out a gap until the eighteenth hour.With two-thirds of the race completed, the Renault A443 was running ahead of the Renault-Alpine A442B, with the Porsches several laps back. The team consequently decided to reduce the turbo boost of the leading car. At 9:21am, the Renault-Alpine A443 re-joined the race with Patrick Depailler – who had been instructed to hold position – at the wheel. Thirty-two minutes later, however, his car came to a halt down at the Mulsanne Corner with a seized engine. That handed first place, and victory, to the Renault Alpine A442B of Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud.For the seventh Le Mans Classic, the Renault A443 will be in the hands of Jean Ragnotti and Alain Serpaggi, who both raced for Alpine at Le Mans.Meanwhile, the prestigious Le Mans Heritage Club concours will allow visitors to admire a V6 Alpine-Renault A310 which took part as a privateer entry in the 1977 Le Mans 24 Hours. Nicknamed the ‘Poisson Dieppois’ (Dieppe Fish), this car will complete a parade lap as one of the 24 cars – which are still in their original configuration – that have marked the French race since 1923.