A month after the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) resumes with the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on July 22-24.
After securing the LMP2 spoils at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans in the N°36 Signatech-Alpine, Lapierre, Richelmi and Menezes will be looking to build on their lead in the class’s FIA Endurance Trophy classification.
The crew of the N°35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine car (Panciatici / Tung / Cheng) intend to use its potential to target a podium finish after an unlucky start to the season.
After finishing at the very top of the LMP2 class with the N°36 Alpine A460 at June’s Le Mans 24 Hours, Philippe Sinault, Nicolas Lapierre, Stéphane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes savoured every instant of the post-race celebrations when tens of thousands of spectators joined in the singing of the Marseillaise.
That success was the first objective of the 2016 campaign but the FIA World Endurance Championship itself still has a very long way to go and competitive action resumes this weekend with the final European clash of the year, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring. After that, the series will continue with visits to Mexico, the USA, Japan, China and Bahrain.
With three rounds completed, Lapierre / Richelmi / Menezes (87 points) enjoy a 23-point lead over their closest pursuers in the LMP2 Endurance Trophy classification. Nelson Panciatici, Ho-Pin Tung and David Cheng (N°35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine) are 15th in the overall standings with a score to date of six points.
The two crews will have different objectives at the German venue. The N°35 trio will be out to build on the competitiveness they have already shown this season (they were battling for a podium footing when they were side-lined at Le Mans) to eye a top result that mirrors their potential. In other words, a top-three finish.
Meanwhile, after coming fourth at Silverstone, then winning their class at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the class’s pace-setters will be out to continue on their momentum in the N°36 prototype. Depending on how the race unfolds, a win, a podium finish or even a strong points haul would all be satisfying conclusions to the weekend in Germany.
To achieve these goals, all six drivers will naturally need to produce polished performances at the Nürburgring which places the emphasis on driver skill, while the weather is often fickle in the Eifel Mountains at this time of year. Sunday’s race is due to start at 1pm local time.
Bernard Ollivier (Deputy General Manager, Alpine): “We need to build on our victory at Le Mans as the WEC calendar switches back to six-hour races. By that, I don’t necessarily mean we want to be first at all costs. We still face stiff competition in LMP2 and we know that we won’t win them all. Even so, the team and drivers have the wind in their sales. Germany is a country where premium sports cars are extremely popular and it is a strategically important market for Alpine. The spectators at the Nürburgring will get to see the Alpine Celebration during a parade lap.”
Philippe Sinault (Team Principal, Signatech-Alpine): “We have been pretty much flat out celebrating our victory at Le Mans in recent weeks. We have been savouring every moment of the experience but now we’re fully focused on the Nürburgring. When we stripped the two Alpine A460s after Le Mans, we were able to confirm that the accident which eliminated the N°35 car was due to a rear brake disc failure. We have obviously rebuilt both prototypes entirely after carefully inspecting or changing every single component. We have two objectives for the Nürburgring. For the N°35 car, we are targeting a result that matches the potential the Baxi DC Racing Alpine crew has shown since the beginning of the season. When it retired at Le Mans, it was running in fourth place thanks to a faultless run by its three drivers and technical squad. A podium would be a great reward for everyone’s work so far. The N°36 Signatech-Alpine currently tops the LMP2 Endurance Trophy standings after winning the last two rounds. We will give it everything we’ve got to consolidate our position. Strong results with both cars would be a welcome outcome ahead of the 2016 FIA WEC’s American and Asian races!”
David Cheng: “Along with Nelson, Ho-Pin and all the guys who run our Alpine A460, we are all on the same wavelength. We have shown real potential since the start of the season, especially at Le Mans where we were running as high as fourth. It ended disappointingly, so now we are looking to score the sort of results we believe we deserve. We’re obviously not in an ideal position in the championship standings and we will need to take all the races as they come in a bid to finish in the top three or on the top step of the podium. If we succeed in stringing together some strong results, a good position in the championship at the end of the year isn’t out of the question. I’ve never raced at the Nürburgring before but I will be in good company to progress quickly. I was delighted to take part in the Le Mans Classic with Stéphane Richelmi recently. Driving the Alpine M65 was an interesting experience which gave me an insight into what it must have been like to race at Le Mans in the 1960s. You really had to take care of the car and the sense of danger can’t have been the same as it is today. Back then, it really was endurance racing. Now, we push hard every lap, through every corner for what is a 24-hour sprint. It’s no less heroic or interesting nowadays.”
Stéphane Richelmi: “Like David, I was thrilled to take part in the Le Mans Classic. We are in the process of writing a new chapter in Alpine’s history and I think it is important to understand the make’s legendary cars like the M65. Back then, Alpine favoured low fuel consumption with small engines and streamlined bodies. It was an early vision of the need for environmentally-friendly cars! I’m glad to be going back to the Nürburgring. It’s an all-round challenge; a bit like the old days although we won’t be using the long circuit. There are some features that enable the way you drive to make a difference but any errors can be costly. I always fear the weather there but there’s nothing you can do about that! Along with Nicolas and Gustavo, we feel confident and we’ve prepared for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring like we would do for any other race, making full use of the experience we have gained. After 24 hours racing at Le Mans, I feel I have improved in terms of fuel and tyre management. We need to stay focused and keep up the good work. Our aim for the second half of the season is to win the title.”
Friday, July 22 Free Practice 1: 12:00 noonFree Practice 2: 4:30pm
Saturday, July 23 Free Practice 3: 9:15amQualifying: 2:45pm
Sunday, July 24 Race: 1:00pm