Alpine shifted into 'Le Mans mode', embarking on the challenge of the 24 Hours of Le Mans centenary.
Glorious sunshine greeted the Friday Scrutineering, the first highlight of the year's showpiece race.
On Sunday, the trios of André Negrão, Memo Rojas and Olli Caldwell, along with Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal and Charles Milesi, hit the track behind the wheel of their Alpine A470s.
It was a trouble-free day for both crews, as they finished into the top five of the LMP2 category.
The 91st Le Mans 24 Hours kicked off with the Scrutineering. A public event held in the Place de la République in Le Mans, these administrative and technical checks saw all the cars entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans inspected by the FIA and ACO stewards to ensure they comply with the regulations.
André Negrão, Memo Rojas and Olli Caldwell, along with Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal and Charles Milesi, were there to be weighed in with all their equipment and received a warm welcome from the crowd before looking ahead to their next task: Test Day. With two three-hour sessions, the two trios used this track time to get to grips with the non-permanent 13.626 km 24 Hours of Le Mans Circuit, renowned for its Mulsanne straight.
From 10am, Olli Caldwell and Charles Milesi climbed into the cockpits of the #35 and #36 Alpines to launch the team's programme. The Briton took the opportunity to immediately carry out the first part of the rookie ritual: completing ten laps during the day, which he will have to complete with five night laps on Wednesday or Thursday. Despite a few interruptions, the two men and their teammates focused on the essential elements for a successful performance: set-up, track evolution, fuel consumption management and analysis of the different tyres compounds.
After taking the lead through Matthieu Vaxiviere, the six drivers took turns gathering information during a morning session in which the two A470s finished in the top six of an impressive field of 24 LMP2 cars. The work and pace picked up in the afternoon. André Negrão put the hammer down, setting a time of 3:36.644s to go to the top of the timesheets before finishing the session third in the LMP2 category. In the sister car, Matthieu Vaxiviere was fourth best with a time of 3:36.782s. At day's end, the two crews had completed 126 laps, totalling more than 1,700 kilometres.
With valuable lessons learnt, Alpine Elf Endurance Team now turns its attention to its tasks on Wednesday: the first free practice and qualifying sessions. In addition to the on-track activity, Alpine Cars will unveil the A110 R Le Mans in the Alpine Paddock Center, following an entertaining parade.
"It's a good starting point. The car worked well and we tried many things on what was a lovely, flowing day. We accumulated a lot of kilometres without any problems, which enabled us to collect valuable data for the team. It was also an opportunity to see Olli learn the track, and he's doing exceptionally well, as is Memo. So far, so good, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for next week!"
"It was a great first day as this is my first 24 Hours of Le Mans. I really enjoyed discovering and expriencing this amazing track. We have made some really good improvements since Spa thanks to our tests at Monza. The car feels much better, I'm really happy with the progress we made and and we're heading in the right direction. Now we have a lot of preactice sessions the week to find the perfect adjustments to make a good race car!"
"I'm satisfied with the first day of Le Mans testing. The car was competitive right away, and it's always nice to be upfront even it is still too early to draw any conclusions. The most important thing was to achieve all our goals from a technical point of view, and my teammates did a fantastic job in this respect. However, we will keep working hard, as we have a long week ahead of us, often full of unforeseen events!"
"The first feeling is great, especially when you look at the timesheets. It gives the team confidence, although you always have to put the results of Test Day into perspective. The important thing was to stick to our plan without the slightest hitch so that we'd have plenty of things to analyse ahead of Wednesday. Mission accomplished, with a constructive Sunday bringing some serenity even though we must keep our feet on the ground and work hard."
"It's good to be back at Le Mans, especially on a constructive day that gave us a good baseline to work from. We tested several ideas, and we seem to be in a good position right now. We won't be resting on our laurels, as the track will change considerably over the next few days. We must continue to adopt the right mindset to confirm our progess for this long week."
"It was a solid first day, with not the least problem to report. We've made good progress over the laps to advance our programme, and we all agree about the car's potential for development. So far, we're well-positioned and know the areas where we still need to make a few adjustments. So that gives some peace of mind and confidence before the proper week at Le Mans begins."
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal
"It was a constructive and productive day, although track time was shorter than in years past. Despite the neutralisations, we have completed an important part of our programme with many lessons learned for the long week ahead. The aerodynamic configuration is always particular at Le Mans, so the drivers needed this track time to gradually get up to speed and ready for the challenge awaiting us. It's still too early to compare ourselves with the competition, so we focused on our own cars. We have everything we need to score a good result, and we will do our utmost to do just that by carefully analysing the data we've collected to ensure we go into the first free practice session on Wednesday in the best conditions."
Test Day – Morning
5. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36 3:38.534s (32 laps)
6. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°35 3:38.559s (28 laps)
Test Day – Afternoon
3. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°35 3:36.644s (32 laps)
4. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36 3:36.782s (34 laps)
Test Day – Cumulative
4. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°35 3:36.644s (60 tours)
5. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36 3:36.782s (66 laps)
Wednesday 7 June
2:00-5:00pm: Free practice 1
10:00pm-12:00am: Free practice 2
Thursday 8 June
3:00-6:00pm: Free practice 3
10:00-11:00pm: Free practice 4
Saturday 10 June
4:00pm: Start of the 91st edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans