Pole position, fastest lap, operational excellence and victory: Alpine Elf Endurance Team brought it all together to win the 1000 Miles of Sebring.
Driven by Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere, the n°36 Alpine A480 controlled the race from start to finish, overcoming the pitfalls and challenges of an edition prematurely halted by storms.
With its first success in the premier category since 1978, Alpine takes the lead in the FIA Hypercar World Endurance Championship heading to the next round at Spa-Francorchamps (5-7 May).
The Alpine Elf Endurance Team's A480 was on point in its first appearance at Sebring International Raceway during the Prologue and continued to build momentum throughout the race week.
After setting the time to beat among Hypercars, the team continued to work hard during the three free practice sessions before tackling qualifying on Thursday evening. Nicolas Lapierre, who knows the atypical Sebring track like the back of his racing gloves, put in a superb time of 1:47.407s to seal Alpine's second outright pole position in the FIA WEC by more than a second.
However, there was a twist in the tale before the start on Friday at noon. André Negrão suffered from a minor case of food poisoning and left Matthieu Vaxiviere to start the race. The Frenchman took on the challenge with panache, commandingly keeping the lead at the first corner before clocking a series of fastest laps.
Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre soon came upon traffic as they shared the driving duties in the opening stints. They built up a one-minute lead before André Negrão got in the car. The Brazilian came out of the pits in third place and gradually made up ground on his rivals until one of them made a mistake, which brought out the red flag.
After a long intervention to repair the tyre wall and three laps behind the safety car to reorganise the field, André kept his composure at the restart. Thanks to the team's operational excellence in managing its fuel consumption, the #36 Alpine even pulled off the perfect move by not having to make a five-second emergency refuel before the restart.
André Negrão reclaimed the lead and completed two stints before Matthieu Vaxiviere returned to the track under fading light and increasingly threatening skies. The Frenchman held on to the lead during the cautions before thunderstorms closing onto the circuit with just over an hour remaining caused a second red flag.
When the action was about to resume, the restart was scrapped with less than an hour to go. This decision meant that the 1000 Miles of Sebring concluded before the eight-hour time limit and sealed the first victory for the Alpine Elf Endurance Team since its return to endurance racing's premier category.
With the pole position and victory, Alpine scored maximum points to take the lead in the championship. Alpine will defend its lead at the next FIA WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps (5-7 May).
"It is fantastic to begin our second season in the premier category with this win. Despite all the challenging conditions, we ran a clean race, especially on the strategic side as we stopped for fuel more often than our rivals. This win is a reward for all of the team's hard work and I hope this is not only the first time the French national anthem will resonate on the podium. However, we know that Sebring is unique, so now we have to wait and see what Spa has in store for us."
"It has been a fantastic week at Sebring, and I'm not about to forget it. First, there was Nicolas' magnificent pole position on Thursday, and now our first Hypercar victory. I've been with Alpine for five years, and I know how hard everyone has worked, especially since our first season in the premier category last year. It brings a special meaning to this success, and it's a source of pride to share these moments with them. I am now looking forward to Spa to repeat this excellent start!"
"We are all delighted with this maiden victory at Sebring. The start went well, we managed to control the Glickenhaus and we had a great first stint. Our plan worked to perfection as we built up a lead to be able to go on with confidence despite the many twists and turns. Everything went perfectly, and it highlights the work done this winter, but also since we arrived in Sebring. I want to pay tribute to the team for this well-deserved victory and I hope there will be more."
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal
"This first win is simply fantastic for our team and Alpine. Sebring is a monument, just like Le Mans. This track is so special with its unique soul. It is a great source of pride for us to achieve here Alpine's first victory in the premier category since 1978. Modestly, but successfully, we believe we are entering the annals of Alpine and French motorsport history. We knew that this type of track could suit our car thanks to its agility, ability to absorb bumps and the efficiency of its aerodynamic load. We did a good job preparing for this race despite the challenges being quite different from the races in Europe. The drivers found their Hypercar to be a pleasure to drive, and they had a lot of fun behind the wheel. I would also like to congratulate the whole team for their operational excellence. Despite this very particular end of the race, they managed to stay calm and composed despite a burgeoning starter issue and radio problems. While this victory is only the first step, there's a definite sense of accomplishment today!"
1000 Miles of Sebring
1. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36 194 laps
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing n°8 +37.466s
3. Glickenhaus Racing n°708 + 1 lap
4. United Autosports USA n°23 + 2 laps
5. Team WRT n°31 + 2 laps...
FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar
1. Alpine Elf Endurance Team – 39 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 27 points
3. Glickenhaus Racing – 23 points