After its LM P2 podium finish at June’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the Alpine A450b returns to France for Round 4 of the 2014 European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
Buoyed by their victory in Austria, Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and Oliver Webb top the provisional standings ahead of the year’s penultimate clash at Circuit Paul Ricard.
It was at the same venue in the south of France that Signatech-Alpine clinched last year’s European Le Mans Series crown. The circuit also saw Alpine-Renault claim the first win of its 1974 title-winning European 2-Litre Championship campaign!
After coming fourth at Silverstone, third at Imola and first at the Red Bull Ring, Signatech-Alpine is in a confident mood ahead of next weekend’s trip to Circuit Paul Ricard and its notorious 1.8km-long Mistral straight.
To boost its chances of a second straight international title, the Alpine A450b underwent further improvements over the summer ahead of the season’s final, potentially decisive fixtures.
“It’s pretty close ahead of the last two races,” notes Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine’s Team Principal. “Our aim has always been to fight for the title. We currently top the points table, so we are in a good position.
“Although we won at the Red Bull Ring, it wasn’t a perfect race for us,” he admits. “The team worked enormously over the summer to make the Alpine A450b even more competitive. Both the engine and aero package have evolved. Everyone is extremely fired up and that’s important because there is big support for this programme in France. It’s up to us now to continue improving in order to have the best chances of winning at Le Castellet so that we can fight for the title at Estoril [Portugal] next month.”
Marseilles-bred Nelson Panciatici has fond memories of his last competitive appearance at Le Castellet where he secured the 2013 European title with Signatech-Alpine: “It was a great occasion and the reward for an exceptional season which marked Alpine’s return to motor racing. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the Alpine A450b. The two-month summer break just seemed to go on and on. There can be no question of playing strategic games at Paul Ricard. Our intention is to win because the championship is very close. We can’t afford to give away any points to our rivals. We’re on an upward spiral and the team is doing an extraordinary job.”
Paul-Loup Chatin also clinched title honours (in the LM PC class) at Circuit Paul Ricard last year when he was Alpine’s Junior driver: “It’s one of the tracks I know the best. That’s good because this is probably the most important race of this year’s European Le Mans Series. It’s good to be leading the championship but the gaps at the top are small. We can’t afford to make any mistakes with only two more races to come. We must do our very best to win in order to prepare for Estoril.”
As a newcomer to endurance racing this season with Signatech-Alpine, Oliver Webb has little experience of the French circuit at the wheel of an LM P2 prototype. He has good knowledge of the track, however, thanks to his days in Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5: “It’s a great place for testing. You can push to the limit without fear of damaging anything. It’s a different picture when you race there, though, because some drivers take certain liberties. I hope that won’t have an effect on the result. I feel really good in the car and our recent results have been very promising. It’s also nice to be racing in France, on Alpine’s home soil. The situation in the championship is very close. We want to extend our lead ahead of the final race but we face some very strong opposition!”
The race will be broadcast live across Europe on Motors TV and online at www.europeanlemansseries.com.
TimetableSaturday, September 1310:30am Free Practice 1 (90 minutes)3:00pm Free Practice 2 (90 minutes)
Sunday, September 149:30am LM P2 Qualifying (20 minutes)11:00am Autograph signing session (30 minutes)1:00pm Race (4 hours)