VICTORY at the 24h of Le Mans 2016 for the Alpine N°36 ! We are now all back home after this incredible adventure to rest a bit. Time to relate you the development of this long race.”
Unpredictable since the start of the practice sessions, the weather made life difficult again for the drivers and teams at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On Saturday afternoon, a heavy shower half an hour before the start forced the teams to switch to wet-weather tyres for the opening laps.
Having started behind the safety car – the first time this has happened in 84 years – the race only really got underway after about fifty minutes. Very quickly, the two Alpine A460s grabbed the top two positions in the LMP2 class. After an hour, the Signatech-Alpine no. 36 held the lead, just ahead of the Baxi DC Racing no. 35.
With the track drying out quickly and more showers forecast, the team had several strategic options available to them as regards tyre choice. Unfortunately, the one chosen proved ill-advised and the Alpine A460s had to come into the pits again. The two cars were therefore down in 12thand 15th places respectively after two hours of racing.
At that point, the weather forecast indicated that there would be no further showers. Behind the wheel of the N°36 since the start, Nicolas Lapierre wasted no time in making up ground. He handed over to Gustavo Menezes, and then around 20.30 to Stéphane Richelmi until 22.50.
When Stéphane took the wheel, with a quarter of the race gone, they held the second position.
The team really laid the foundations for the win overnight, not hesitating to alter its race strategy in response to on-track incidents. For example, when the safety car was introduced, Philippe Sinault’s team took advantage of the lull to bring the no. 36 into the pits for a full check-up, knowing little time would be lost.
After grabbing the category lead, Nicolas Lapierre handed over driving duties to Gustavo Menezes. On his first appearance at the famous Le Mans race, the Californian produced an impressive performance during the three hours he spent behind the wheel. He took the Signatech-Alpine car clear of their closest rivals as he built up a healthy lead! When he handed over to Nicolas Lapierre at around 4am on Sunday morning, the performance was applauded by the fans gathered in the garage.
Once they got over the disappointment of the N°35 DNF, the team shifted their attention to the N°36 car, which held a one-lap lead at that stage. Maintaining a consistent pace despite the heavy traffic, Stéphane Richelmi consolidated the work of his team-mates by driving for the majority of the morning.
Nicolas Lapierre then had the responsibility and honour of crossing the finishing line. After another three impeccable stints, the members of the Signatech-Alpine team were able to celebrate joyfully this historic achievement, a first-ever win at Le Mans.
For Alpine, this win adds another line to its already impressive competitive record. Everyone involved with French motorsport remembers, with great pride, the overall win of the A442B driven by Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in 1978. This LMP2 victory is Alpine’s seventh category win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and its second-best overall result at the world-famous race.
Thanks to the double points at this 24-hour race, the Lapierre/Menezes/Richelmi crew is now the clear leader of the FIA Endurance LMP2 Trophy. Signatech-Alpine is now also the sole leader in the teams’ standings.
“I will be at the Festival of Speed in Goodwood this week-end, driving a Formula E and the Alpine Celebration. I can’t wait to go there !
Thanks for the follow”