Plenty of thrills for Alpine's Pikes Peak debut

Plenty of thrills for Alpine's Pikes Peak debut

For the first time in its history, Alpine took on the challenge of the world's most famous hill climb at Pikes Peak.
FIA R-GT Cup title-winner with the A110 Rally, Raphaël Astier was tasked with driving the remarkably reliable and spectacularly designed Alpine A110 Pikes Peak.

Specially adapted for the event, the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak, which develops almost 500 hp for a weight of 950 kg, completed the legendary 19.93 km climb and 156 corners in 9:17.412s.

The Alpine A110 Pikes Peak finished third overall behind two legends of the event, smashing the previous Pikes Peak Open category record by more than seven seconds.

As the best combustion-powered car in its class, the A-arrow brand achieved one of the greatest performances ever for a brand's first time in Colorado.

Contested in the stunningly picturesque setting of the Rocky Mountains since 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the longest-running motor racing events in the United States. Although this iconic event has undergone several changes over the last century, the world's most famous hill climb is now one of the most exhilarating sporting challenges. It's an iconic challenge the Alpine and Signatech teams couldn't refuse, tackling this race to the clouds for the first time in their respective histories.

Because of the event's atypical format, the team set off for Pikes Peak at 3:00 am thus Sunday. Fourth overall in qualifying for its first appearance, Alpine was preparing to take on a hotly-contested field for its single 19.93 km complete ascent. Competing in the Pikes Peak Open category, the most diverse class, Alpine approached this fateful moment with humility against the specialists in the 156-turn competition, which starts at an altitude of 2,865 metres and finishes at 4,301 metres.

At 8:41 am, Raphaël Astier was in the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak driver's seat. Flowing, clean and aggressive, he remained lucid throughout the climb despite the car, his body and nerves all subjected to the depletion of oxygen, the threat of the ravines, the dust on the road and the blinding sun in the bends.

Relying on his and the car's consistency with a superb push in sector three thanks to the perfect management of his Michelin tyres, the Frenchman completed the climb in 9:17.412s... More than six seconds quicker than his personal best set with a Porsche in 2019. Surpassing the hopes of Alpine and Signatech, he even beat the former Pikes Peak Open category record held by Peter Cunningham in his Acura by more than seven seconds!

Alpine scored a stunning success in breaking the Pikes Peak Open category record and finishing second in class. Les Bleus also finished third overall in their first appearance.

Thanks to this exceptional performance, Alpine once again proved its versatility by beating several competitors in much more open classes, and thus farther from road models. Raphaël Astier and the A-arrow brand also finished ahead of several prototypes, single-seaters and concept cars in the Unlimited class as well as all the other GTs entered in the Pikes Peak Open and Time Attack 1 classes to claim first place among the mass-produced internal combustion-powered cars, while mixing it up with the drivers who have dominated the last eight Pikes Peak editions.

Launched in late autumn 2022, the project relied on the close relationship between the Alpine design office and the Bourges workshops, whose responsiveness was key in designing a car dedicated to the event in record time.

Based on the A110 GT4 Evo, the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak is a genuine work of craftsmanship with the addition of aerodynamic add-ons and a 500 bhp engine developed specifically to cope with the demands of this unique event. The car's weight was also reduced to 950 kg and leading partners including Elf, Michelin, Oreca and ALP Racing Suspension all contributed to the project.

After specific track tests and winding rally stages, the French team headed to Val Thorens to do the same at altitude. The Alpine A110 Pikes Peak then returned to Bourges for servicing before departing for the United States in late May.

The team arrived in the United States on 5 June and set up its base camp at workshops in Colorado Springs. After the initial trials and various validation tests in France, the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak had a shakedown at the Pikes Peak International Raceway before its first runs on the famous mountain on 9, 10 and 11 June.

With four previous participations and a category record at Pikes Peak, Raphaël Astier – 2022 FIA R-GT Cup title-winner with the Alpine A110 Rally - got his bearings for the first time since 2021. Immediately positive, the Frenchman worked closely with the Signatech engineers and mechanics to fine-tune the car in this unique setting, in the different sectors: high-speed sections at the bottom, slow corners and hairpins in the intermediate sector, as well as high altitudes.

The race week began on Monday, 19 June, with the Tom Osborne Community Day administrative and technical verifications. After a final check, the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak continued its acclimatisation and exploration of the event's subtleties, including its specific official test format.

Each day, the car, Raphaël Astier and the technical crew could only test just one of the three sections of the climb shortly after sunrise, between 5:30 and 8:30 am. They first encountered the upper part of the mountain, made up of fast curves, bumps and precipices. In the cold and windy conditions, Raphaël Astier's two runs allowed him to work on the settings and the engine at altitude to finish second in the Pikes Peak Open class and set the benchmark time among the thermal blocks.

On Wednesday, the work kept going at the foot of the summit. There, the Frenchman had three attempts to fine-tune the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak's chassis handling on a demanding section and set the third fastest time in his category. Due to the weather conditions and fog, Thursday's intermediate section session was postponed to Friday. On this part made of hairpins, Raphaël Astier was at ease during his five runs and was once again among the Pikes Peak Open leaders.

On the strength of their positive test results, marked by steady improvement and faultless reliability, the engineers and mechanics perfected the final details by preparing the car one last time. After a final data and onboards analysis, the team met with the tens of thousands of spectators charmed by the Alpine at the Fan Fest in downtown Colorado Springs.

As the regulations dictate, the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak then spent the night under the stars before the moment of truth. History was in the making and written during a breathtaking run completed in just 9:17.412s.

Demonstrating all its panache, thirst for learning and extraordinary know-how in this unprecedented adventure, Alpine made a powerful impression on the other side of the Atlantic and now looks forward to inspiring new challenges in the automotive world and motorsport!

Raphaël Astier
"It was a great run and the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak worked like a charm. I tried to give it my all and I'm delighted to have improved my personal best by several seconds. We finished third overall and second in the Pikes Peak Open category behind the benchmark, Romain Dumas and his electric car, which develops almost three times as much power as ours. That is no mean feat and we can be proud of our performance in our first appearance with Alpine. I want to thank Alpine, Signatech and their partners for all the hard work they have put in over the last few weeks."

Lionel Chevalier, Signatech Technical Director
"It was a total culture shock but an unforgettable experience. The car was only five weeks old before it flew to Colorado, but the project achieved each of its targets one after the other. We knew the Alpine A110 Pikes Peak's performance level and the time we could aim for after testing and qualifying. As well as being in the running with faultless reliability, we were reasonably optimistic despite the rather close competition. Raphaël used all his talent to do what was need to achieve this superb time. It was the perfect culmination of all the preparation and work done over the last weeks by our American family."

François Letort, Alpine A110 Pikes Peak Project Manager
"Pikes Peak is truly a special one, with three weeks of preparation on site before the decisive climb. Contrary to our usual routine, the running time was fairly limited, but we worked well without any reliability problems. We were able to focus on our core job, performance. The week's racing went well even though we couldn't do two days on the high section, which requires the most commitment with blind corners on the edge of the ravine. Despite this, Raphaël set his best time while beating our simulations. He put everything together to extract the full potential from the car and himself, and we can all be extremely proud of our performance and this excellent result."

Philippe Sinault, Signatech CEO
"It was a fabulous experience and the result surpassed all our hopes at the beginning of the project. We knew we were fit for this adventure as we have the men and women needed to take up this unique challenge. Lionel and François put together a commando team whose work has been admirable. We encountered no technical problems on this proving ground, which was almost like a laboratory with the altitude and the atypical conditions of this race. Raphaël was fantastic, driving our preparation thanks to his experience and then improving his personal best time by six seconds to beat brands that have been around for decades with much more powerful cars than ours. I would also like to mention the warm welcome we received from the fans and the incredible outpouring of support for our Alpine, that may have been small compared to the competition, but truly made its mark on the event right in its first appearance. It is an immense source of pride to see our teams place Alpine on the overall podium at Pikes Peak. It's a convincing result in unfamiliar territory that is in keeping with the great tradition of challenges the brand has always set itself."

Robert Bonetto, Alpine Engineering Director
"It was a fantastic day at Pikes Peak for the Alpine brand, thanks to Raphaël Astier and the work of all the teams involved in the project. We finished third overall with a car based on the Alpine A110 GT4 Evo, and therefore close to the production car while beating models two to three times more powerful. It is a magnificent result for the Alpine brand's first outing on American soil. It shows what we're capable of when we take on a challenge. When Philippe Sinault suggested this adventure, we were all enthusiastic and united behind this challenge. It underlines the strength of our brand and our teams, mobilised as a band of racers to excel in all conditions. Lastly, we have once again demonstrated that our sportiness, based on agility, lightness, pleasure and sensations, can compete with powerful monsters and has its rightful place in the motorsport den that is Pikes Peak".

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