Great promise but bitter disappointment for Alpine at Le Mans

Great promise but bitter disappointment for Alpine at Le Mans

On its 24 Hours of Le Mans debut, the Alpine A424 made it through to the Hyperpole and showed an encouraging pace.
After climbing to fourth place, the #35 A424 retired in hour five before the crew in the sister car was equally betrayed by mechanical issues.
Alpine Endurance Team now looks ahead to the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of São Paulo (14 July).

 


Alpine has returned to the FIA WEC's premier category this season, making its first appearance at Le Mans with its new hypercar, the A424. After its first three races, Alpine Endurance Team rose to the challenge of the most iconic, longest and most demanding race on the calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

In good form from the first track action, Les Bleus confirmed their potential in qualifying on Wednesday. Paul-Loup Chatin finished fourth to advance to the Hyperpole, while Nicolas Lapierre qualified ninth out of 23 Hypercars. On Thursday, Paul-Loup Chatin was back behind the wheel to take fifth place on the grid.

 

After a Friday marked by camaraderie with the public during the parade in the Le Mans city centre, Alpine returned to the track on Saturday lunchtime for a 15-minute warm-up session. Charles Milesi and Nicolas Lapierre were at the commands while the engineers conducted their final systems and procedures checks.

 

The Frenchmen then took the start, given by Zinedine Zidane at 4 pm, in the presence of Luca de Meo, Renault Group CEO, and BWT Alpine F1 Team drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, who came to lend their support to the team. Starting on medium tyres, Charles Milesi and Nicolas Lapierre took off cautiously to avoid the potential hazards. However, the former had to contend with reduced visibility due to oil spray from a competitor.

 

Ninth and twelfth at the end of the opening lap, the Frenchmen moved up to fourth place during their first two stints. When it began to rain, the team called them in to put on wet tyres, but ultimately, the showers weren't intense enough, and the two crews fell outside the top ten.

 

Paul-Loup Chatin and Mick Schumacher took over when it was time to change back to slicks. Despite a longer-than-expected stop for the #35, the two drivers each put in a solid triple stint for over two hours to stay on the same lap as the leader before handing over to Ferdinand Habsburg and Matthieu Vaxiviere.

 

At 8:46 pm, the #35's race came to a halt when Ferdinand Habsburg suffered an engine failure. The sister car continued to run just outside the top ten, first with Matthieu Vaxiviere and then Nicolas Lapierre as evening approached. Suffering from the same issue, the #36 returned to the pits at 9:36 pm. With a heavy heart, the team shuttered the garage doors for good. 

 

The team will analyse the causes of this early double retirement to return stronger. Despite the disappointment, Alpine Endurance Team is taking some positives from its first year in the Hypercar category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, notably thanks to its promising pace which allowed it to participate in the Hyperpole and make a solid start to the race.

 

The next race for Alpine Endurance Team will be the 6 Hours of São Paulo (12-14 July), round five of the 2024 FIA Endurance World Championship.

 

Quotes 

Charles Milesi
"The start wasn't easy, with difficulty getting heat into the tyres. We lost a few places by avoiding unnecessary risks but ran strong and stayed close to the leading favourites. Our rain tyre gamble didn't work out, but we were still on the pace until we retired. We finished the first three races of the season trouble-free, but the machinery is tested like nowhere else in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This disappointment should help us analyse, understand and turn our weaknesses into strengths. It's cruel, but we must work harder to bounce back." 

Nicolas Lapierre
"We started quite well and could use our speed to make up ground. Despite a small strategic error when we stopped too early to put on the rain tyres, we were always on the same lap as the leaders until we retired. We said from the start that we were here to learn this year. We didn't expect to perform as well as we did this week, so the slide is even harder, but this will be helpful to us in the future. Now we will do everything we can to come back stronger." 

Philippe Sinault, Team Principal
"This double retirement is cruel, even if we knew reliability could be an issue. Despite all the testing and simulations, only the truth of the race matters. Our start to the season had shown us some great things, so it's all the more disappointing and disconcerting to retire so early. But we have to take the positives and keep moving forward. This week, we've had confirmation that our car is fast. We must keep working to pick ourselves up and make progress, although the whole team is suffering tonight." 

Bruno Famin, Alpine VP Motorsports
"We knew that this debut 24 Hours of Le Mans would be a steep learning curve, even more so for only the A424's fourth race. But that doesn't change our disappointment. We will analyse the reasons for this mechanical problem so that we can come back stronger next year. Our car showed good form throughout the week, so we have strong foundations to improve. I want to thank everyone for their commitment, but motorsport is cruel. That's why victory is sweeter when it happens. Seeing the tears and the disappointed faces this evening, I am convinced that we will make Alpine Endurance Team a squad capable of fighting for podiums and wins."

 

RESULTS

Alpine Endurance Team #35
Charles Milesi – Ferdinand Habsburg – Paul-Loup Chatin
Start: 5th / Retired at 8:46 pm. 

Alpine Endurance Team #36
Matthieu Vaxiviere – Mick Schumacher – Nicolas Lapierre
Start: 9th / Retired at 9:36 pm


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