The first day of running ahead of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans was reserved for free practice and qualifying.
The Signatech Alpine Matmut team finished second in the LMP2 category in qualifying session 1.
Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet used the first night session to find their marks in the darkness.
After morning showers, the sun was out for the start of the four-hour free practice session. First in the car, André Negrão put in an observation lap on the partially wet Circuit de la Sarthe before Philippe Sinault’s men waited for more representative conditions.
In hour two, the Brazilian went back out for a stint that was disrupted by rain before being relayed by Pierre Thiriet, whose run was hampered by a red flag, and Nicolas Lapierre, who posted the best time of the trio in 3:29.978s. The final minutes allowed Pierre Thiriet to complete his programme.
While not looking for raw pace, the team carefully managed its tyres allocation in putting in just 22 laps in the session.
Following a two-hour break, the pace picked up once night fell in the opening qualifying session. Nicolas Lapierre mastered the traffic on his out lap and kicked off his run with a lap of 3:26.935s. The Frenchman then shared the driving duties with André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet so that all three could find their marks in the pitch-black conditions.
The chequered flag was waved at the stroke of midnight with the Alpine A470 in second position in the LMP2 category thanks to the time Nicolas Lapierre set early in the session.
The chase for the pole will continue Thursday with two more two-hour sessions (19:00-21:00 and 22:00-00:00).
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Matmut
“It was a positive day although we were careful in practice due to the weather conditions. Tonight, the priority was for our three drivers to put in their five-night laps. As the track was dry, Nicolas went out first with a set of new tyres to assure a time if he could get a clear lap. That was the case and overall the session went perfectly because we were able to test the two type of tyres Michelin has brought. Andre also went out on fresh rubber on the other compound to give us some direct comparisons. The conditions will determine tomorrow’s programme, but we will count on continuing our analysis of the long stints in fresh temperatures. In any case, we have plenty of room for improvement.”
“It was a satisfying day despite the free practice being splintered by the weather and some incidents. We were able to complete our programme with the three drivers and that was crucial. Although qualifying will be played for tomorrow, we are pleased to be in second place and satisfied with the potential of the Alpine A470. We will have to confirm this on one lap tomorrow, but we will also have to focus on the race as the temperatures have dropped quite a lot and we have not yet had the chance to work in these conditions. The forecast for the rest of the week looks to be the same, so the key will be to set up our car in race conditions and we will study the data gathered today, the types of tyres used and the performance of our competitors to achieve this. We seemed to be on the right track even though it is hard to draw any conclusions this early.”