The 89th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans began Friday with the scrutineering.
The twice around the clock classic is the crown jewel of the FIA World Endurance Championship and hosts the fourth round of the 2021 season.
Forty-three years after the victory of Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Alpine makes its return to the race’s premier category.
Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team drivers Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere will represent the only French team entered in the Hypercar class.
Alpine will celebrate its passion for motorsport with an exceptional parade next Saturday at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
15,769 days, or 43 years 2 months and 2 days ago, the A442B driven by the late Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi won on 11 June 1978. Since that historic triumph, Alpine has never competed again in the top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Launched in 2013, the revival of the brand founded by Jean Rédélé was first reflected in the successive entries of the A450, A460, A460B and A470 in the LMP2 category. Three victories and a wealth of experience gained in the 24 Hours of Le Mans highlighted this period, which has now given way to Alpine's return to the pinnacle of the world endurance racing.
Before taking on one of motorsport's biggest challenges, the Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team scored three consecutive podium finishes in the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps, Portimão and Monza with its new A480. Since then, the team has been overhauling its prototype over the past few weeks while meticulously preparing the spare parts needed for this gruelling test for both men and machine.
Yesterday, the Alpine sporting its lucky number 36 underwent the traditional administrative and technical checks conducted by the FIA and ACO scrutineers on all the key elements of each car entered, as well as the drivers' complete array of equipment.
Work will continue behind the scenes before the action gets underway in earnest on Sunday, 58 years and two months to the day after Alpine's debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with three M63s. Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere are all familiar with the intricacies of the Sarthe circuit but the Test Day will provide them with an opportunity to find their bearings on the 13.626km temporary track while also fine-tuning the car and its setup. The team will also focus on perfecting pit stops and analysing all the Michelin tyres compounds.
The preparations will continue up to the first practice session on Wednesday before qualifying, which is now one hour in length. This will be followed by two more practice sessions Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon before the Hyperpole. This format, which was introduced last year, will pit the top six finishers from the Hypercar, LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am classes against each other in a purely speed-based format that will determine the starting order of the top six positions in each category on the grid.
After a final night practice session, the Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team and its rivals will meet again on Saturday morning for a fifteen-minute warm-up. Alpine will then organise an exceptional pre-race parade, whose details will be announced soon, to celebrate its passion for motorsport.
Surrounded by a team never shying away from a challenge and today awarded the Spirit of Le Mans trophy handed to Philippe Sinault, Nicolas, André and Mathieu will then take turns at the wheel of the A480 for a 24-hour marathon with a goal: to lead the Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team to new heights and to hear the Marseillaise ring out in front of a blue-white-and-red public next Sunday shortly after 16h00!
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team Principal
"It’s that time of the year again! The preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been underway behind the scenes for the past several months, bit the team set up camp on Tuesday. We are now ready to go, and we have worked a lot thanks to all the lessons learnt from the first three races of the season. We are well aware of our status. This year we are the outsiders, but we are confident that we have a fighting chance with the sporting and technical resources at our disposal. The Test Day promises to be a long one with a wider range of areas to explore and study, such as the impact of our new updates with the goal of maintaining the pressure on our rivals throughout the race. Most of the work has been completed at the factory, but there is still much testing and checking to do. We found a solid baseline setup at Monza, and the conditions on Sunday should be quite similar to those we will face during the race week. We should be able to focus on tyre and fuel management this weekend, but we have to bear in mind that the track surface of this 70% temporary circuit will improve with each session. The aim will be to get the marathon off to a good start on Test Day."
Sunday 15 August
9h00-13h00: Test Day
14h00-19h00: Test Day
Wednesday 18 August
14h00-17h00: Free practice 1
22h00-00h00: Free practice 2
Thursday 19 August
14h00-17h00: Free practice 3
22h00-00h00: Free practice 4
Saturday 21 August
14h30-14h45: Alpine Parade
16h00: Start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Founded in 1955 by Jean Rédélé, the brand has set itself apart with its French-style sports cars. In 2018, the brand introduced the new A110, a sports car faithful to Alpine’s timeless principles of compactness, lightness, agility and craftsmanship to innovative, authentic, exclusive sportscars of the Renault Group, benefiting from the heritage and craftsmanship of its historical Dieppe factory, as well as the engineering mastery from the Alpine Racing and Alpine Cars teams.