Le Mans 18h30
The Signatech Alpine Elf team is already in a proper race against the clock in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The n°36 Alpine A470 dropped two laps due to a water leak at the start.
André Negrão, Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues have since started a wild comeback in the middle of the field.
After the fourth and final practice session Friday morning, the action resumed on the Circuit de la Sarthe Saturday morning for a short 15-minute warm-up session.
On a drying track, André Negrão was able to put in a reconnaissance lap in all-new conditions for this week while the team carried on with a final check of all the systems and procedures.
Just after the lunch hour, the 59 crews took their positions on the grid for the start at 14h30. Shod will slick tyres on a practically dry track surface, André Negrão approached the start with the goal of moving to the sharp end of the LMP2 category.
However, the Brazilian had to return to the pits at the end of the opening lap with a disengaged water circuit connection. After ultra-quick service from the mechanics, André Negrão was back on track seven minutes later. Following a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line at pit entry, the n° 36 Alpine A470 was more than two laps behind the leaders.
Setting off on a wild comeback, André Negrão didn't give up and overtook GTE Pro and GTE Am cars before handing over to Thomas Laurent after a double stint and an hour and a half of action.
The Frenchman carried the momentum of his team-mate and rejoined the top half of the field at the beginning of his triple stint before he handed over to Pierre Ragues.
After the first four hours of the race, the crew was in 24th place overall and in the top 20 in LMP2.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Elf
"This is not the most ideal way to start a 24-hour race. We suffered a big water leak as a water circuit connection disengaged. We think this may have been due to a contact in the Dunlop curve at the start. We were able to reconnect it, purge it and get back out. It cost us two laps, but we will continue to push and hopefully we will have better luck in the next few hours!”
"We got this issue right at the start. At first, I thought it was due to the low speeds and the lack of air in the field on the formation lap, but the engine went into safety mode because of the rising temperatures. Once the race started, I lost more and more power until some small engine cuts on the Mulsanne straight. I decided to head to the pits at the last moment, hence the drive-through penalty, but the team managed to fix it. The car felt great afterwards and we continued to push despite being two laps down. There are still twenty hours of racing to go and anything can happen, both on the track and with the conditions, so by no means are we going to give up!”