The first day of running in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans was composed of free-practice and the first qualifying session.
Wanting to conserve its quota of tyres, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team limited the running of the n°36 Alpine A470.
In setting 5th best time, Nicolas Lapierre immediately slotted in among the LMP2 category leaders.
Despite overcast skies, the air and track temperatures were relatively warm when the field headed on to the circuit for four hours of free-practice. Pierre Thiriet, Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão each went out to put in an endurance test on the soft compound in race conditions.
The team didn’t want to deplete its tyre quota and the trio of drivers wasn’t searching for absolute performance. The Alpine A470 put in just 24 laps in the session.
Following a two-hour break, night fell over the circuit and the drivers returned to action in the first qualifying session. Wasting no time, Nicolas Lapierre put in a lap of 3:26.681s. He then handed over to André Negrão – who also set off on new tyres – and Pierre Thiriet. Thus, all three drivers could find their bearings as the circuit plunged into darkness.
The session came to an end at midnight with the Alpine A470 fifth in the LMP2 category. The race for the pole continues today with two two-hour sessions (19:00-21:00 and 22:00-0:00).
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
“It was a positive day because we did a good job. The weather could be worse tomorrow, so we ran two sets of soft compound tyres to insure a good place on the starting grid in case of showers. With a little less traffic, the times of Nico and André would have been better, but it is always hard to get a clear lap at Le Mans! We still have plenty of room to improve.”
“I am pleased with how the day went. We didn’t experience any problems. If it stays dry tomorrow, our goal will be to find some performance to get closer to the first two rows. It’s not essential, but it is always good for the confidence. As for race pace, it looks like we are in the hunt, with a good homogeneity in our crew of drivers.”