More than two months after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship is back in action this week at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Following its podium finish at Le Mans, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team will look to finish its maiden campaign in the premier class in style at the two races scheduled at Sakhir.
André Negrão, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre are now well versed with the Alpine A480 and will aim to reach new heights in the last two rounds of the calendar.
The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season, which began in April, is about to conclude with two races in eight days at the Sakhir circuit: the 6 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday and the 8 Hours of Bahrain next week.
Although it has been over two months since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team has remained extremely busy. As soon as the Le Mans podium celebrations were over, the team was already hard at work servicing the A480 and sending it by cargo ship to Bahrain. At the same time, the A-arrowed brand confirmed its commitment to the highest level of endurance racing with its plans to enter two LMDh cars in the Hypercar category from 2024.
Second at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza and third in Portimão and Le Mans, Les Bleus will look to continue their run of podiums while nearing a first win against its Hypercar and LMP2 rivals who could spring a surprise.
Feared for its treacherous surface due to desert sandstorms, the Bahrain track will nevertheless rekindle fond memories for the team, which won its first pole position on the world stage there in 2015. Alpine then repeated the feat in 2016 before taking a third consecutive pole in 2017, again in LMP2.
Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and André Negrão all know the circuit well and will try to build on their experience and that of the team for the Alpine A480's first appearance in Bahrain. The trio will also be keen to remain in contention for the titles against the leaders, who will have the advantage of entering two prototypes.
The penultimate round of the season will kick off with the first free practice session on Thursday. Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere will use the time to gather as much information as possible in preparation for qualifying late on Friday. The race will then start on Saturday at 10.00am European time and will be run almost entirely in daylight, as the finish will coincide with sunset in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team Principal
"So much has happened since Le Mans that the last race seems like a lifetime ago. We only had time to service the Alpine A480 after Le Mans before it was shipped to Bahrain in early September. The team is already at work for this Bahraini adventure which will be nearly three weeks long. The target will be to finish our campaign on a high. After our four consecutive podiums, we want to do everything we can to be a contender for the win. It would be the ideal way to end this great season and reward everyone's efforts. The challenges of Bahrain are well known, with an abrasive track where the sand can literally cut through the tyres. There is a real need for traction in the long reacceleration phases. I think we are well prepared for both the six-hour race on Saturday and the eight-hour race the following week. It is also a circuit our drivers particularly like and they have always been comfortable here. We're looking forward to it because if our podium at Le Mans brought us a lot of joy, it made us hungry for more!"