Half a century ago, Alpine participated in its first 24 Hours of Le Mans. This great story led the marque founded in 1955 by Jean Rdl to the highest step of the podium in La Sarthe in 1978. Here are highlights of the thirty-five year saga.
Among Alpine drivers at Le Mans, there were former and a future winners of the 24 Hours: Jean Guichet (1964 Ferrari) and Gerard Larrousse (in 1973-74 for Matra). Eighth in 1968 was Andr de Cortanze (son of Charles, who was then Clerk of the Course of the 24 Hours) who would then go on to be a brilliant engineer, who was responsible for the successful Peugeot 905 in La Sarthe in 1992 and 1993. Here are some key dates in the history of Alpine at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The French manufacturer opens a new chapter in 2013. In this timeline, the history of Alpine at Le Mans begins in French blue in 1963, and ends with the victory in a yellow and black in 1978.
1963 First time at the 24 Hours. The three cars at the start are all unfortunately forced to retire.
1964 - Two of the four Alpines make it to the finish, with Henri Morrogh-Roger de Lageneste (17th) and Roger Masson-Teodoro Zeccoli (20th).
1966 - First top 10 for the Alpine A210, with ninth place for Henri Grandsire-Leo Cella. The three other cars finish bunched together: : Jacques Cheinisse-Roger de Lageneste (11th), Guy Verrier-Robert Bouharde (12th) and Mauro Bianchi-Jean Vinatier (13th).
1967 & 1968 - The Alpine A210 confirms its reliability with two more appearances in the top ten: Jos Rosinski-Henri Grandsire and Alain Leguellec-Andr de Cortanze finished respectively ninth and tenth in 1967. The following year, Vinatier and de Cortanze climbed to eighth place, while Jean-Luc Thrier and Bernard Tramont scored another tenth position finish.
1975 Alpine became a subsidiary of Renault in 1973, and returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours after six years of absence. A 441c prototype was driven by an all-woman crew: the Italian Lella Lombardi and the French Marie-Claude Beaumont (retired).
1976 The duel of turbocharged engines in La Sarthe: The Alpine A442 of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Patrick Tambay started from pole position, but the Porsche 936 of Jacky Ickx, Gijs van Lennep won the race.
1977 - This time with Derek Bell, Jabouille led the 24 Hours at the start departure until retirement on Sunday morning shortly after nine o'clock. None of the four A442 prototypes finished but the time of the Renault Alpine was about to arrive.
1978 - Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud finally reach the goal, covering more than 5000 kilometres. They won, ahead of two Porsche 936 that completed the podium.