The FIA World Endurance Championship will conclude its 2022 season at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Still in the running for the world titles, the Alpine Elf Endurance Team and its trio of drivers will aim for an exploit in the A480's farewell.
Announced in September 2020, Alpine's return to the highest level of endurance racing has seen the French team produce some superb results, including a podium finish at Le Mans in 2021 and victories at Sebring and Monza in 2022. This week, the season-finale will mark the last appearance of the A-arrowed brand in the premier class before a transitionnal year ahead of its planned return with a new protoype in 2024.
Thanks to its performance, the team travels to Bahrain in a position to challenge Toyota Gazoo Racing, the three-time defending world champion, for both crowns. Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere head to Sakhir on equal points with the Buemi-Hartley-Hirakawa trio, with both crews having a 26-point lead over Kobayashi-Lopez and Conway, while 39 will be up for grabs in the Middle East.
Against its main rival, Alpine Elf Endurance Team will also have to count on all its qualities and grit to make up for its 26-point deficit in the Constructors' Championship as its rivals only need to be classified with one of their two Hypercars to be crowned.
In this David vs Goliath double-showdown, the slightest position could make all the difference, and Les Bleus will do their utmost to beat the odds. Amongst the Alpine Elf Endurance Team's assets, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and André Negrão know the Bahraini track perfectly and will be determined to pull off a coup.
The venue for three consecutive pole positions for Alpine in LMP2 between 2015 and 2017, the Bahrain International Circuit is also the only stop on the calendar where the Alpine A480 has already contested two races before this season. Last year, the #36 Hypercar finished third in the 6 Hours of Bahrain and then third in the 8 Hours of Bahrain despite a gearbox control problem that forced it to make a mad dash comeback drive.
The engineers then gathered valuable information on the different strategic options for tyres, fuel consumption and driving time on this track, which is known for its abrasive surface due to the sandstorms coming from the desert. They will aim to seize every opportunity while building on the operational excellence that has characterised Alpine's season to date.
The final round of the calendar kicks off on Thursday with the first free practice session. Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere will take advantage of this to prepare for qualifying late on Friday. The race will start on Saturday at noon central European time. The competitors will see the sun gradually wane as the circuit plunges into the magic of the night, where a true blue dream could become a reality.
Right after the finish, Alpine will turn its attention to the future. Next year, the A-arrowed brand and its Signatech team decided to enter the FIA WEC in the LMP2 category for a transitional year. In parallel to this collaboration marking ten years of Alpine since its return to endurance racing, the Viry-Châtillon teams will be at the forefront of the development of the Alpine LMDh, which will join the other constructors entered in Hypercar for 2024.
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal
"We already had a great season and have something to compete for in the season finale in Bahrain. Had we known this at the beginning of the year, we would've been delighted. It is a real opportunity, and I feel a huge excitement and momentum in the team about what is at stake. Everyone is preparing and ready to put their heart into this final battle. Beyond the usual challenges of the Sakhir circuit, we hope everything will come together to enjoy a fantastic sporting festival with a magnificent show, as was the case at Monza. By launching our project in early 2021, we wanted to lay the foundations for a long-term commitment to Alpine at the highest level. This has been made possible thanks to the brand, but also the virtuous framework established by the ACO and all the stakeholders and interested parties. We want to thank them for their work and congratulate them on the success of these two years. We have had some great moments with the Alpine A480, from its first laps in February 2021 to our victory in July at Monza, not forgetting our podium at the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours or our victory at Sebring last March. We now hope the best memories are yet to come, as we so much want to bid a fond farewell to this wonderful prototype uniting us around our current and future projects."
Thursday 10 November
10:15-11:45 am: Free practice 1
3:30-5:00 pm: Free practice 2
Friday 11 November
9:00-10:00 am: Free practice 3
3:10-4:10 pm: Qualifying Hypercar
Saturday 12 November
12:00-8:00 pm: 8 Hours of Bahrain