Alpine is back
Fans have had a 20-year wait and, prior to February 16, 2016, plenty of rumours had been doing the rounds. Yet when the eagerly-awaited new show car was finally presented in Monaco, reality surpassed the dream to signal that Alpine is well and truly back!
The previous evening, on the harbour side in Monaco, two impeccable rows of Berlinettes – 90 in all – stole the limelight from the armada of luxury yachts moored nearby. The owners of these cars could barely conceal their pride as they presented their respective gems to curious passers-by ahead of the next day’s revelation of the show car.
That evening, the same owners gathered for a gala dinner in the presence of Bernard Ollivier, Deputy Managing Director. Fellow diners comprised former Alpine staff members, including their President André Désaubry. There were also three of the motorsport celebrities who helped to forge the original Alpine legend: drivers Bernard Darniche and Jean Vinatier, plus ‘Biche’, who famously co-drove alongside Jean-Claude Andruet. After emotional greetings, conversations turned naturally to recollections of their exploits, not only in the Alps, but also in other rallying hotspots, like Corsica.
truly happy days
Darniche was delighted that the classic car owners, whose undying passion for Alpine had kept the flame burning, were there to share the moment. “In the 1970s, Jean-Pierre [Nicolas], Jean-Luc [Thérier] and I formed an inseparable threesome at Alpine,” he recalled as he soaked up the congenial atmosphere. “Whenever one of us won a rally, we would celebrate afterwards and share out the winnings as if we had just robbed a bank. They were truly happy days. There was something very special about the spirit at Alpine.”
truly happy days
Early the following day, the joy of being together, the growing sense of eagerness and a ripple of apprehension were palpable. By the door, Alsace-based Gilles Jordan was amongst the Alpine owners – identifiable by their blue Alpine jackets – who could clearly wait no longer. In the dim light of the small, cosy room hosting the event, it was possible to pick out the tantalising forms of the new show car, draped in a white veil. When, at last, the time came to remove it and reveal the Alpine Vision, there was a moment of silence, followed by an ovation to remarks of “beautiful”, “stunning”, “superb”…
The Alpine diehards were won over at once. One wanted to place an order on the spot; another said he would be unable to wait until 2017, when the road car is scheduled for release. A110 owner Denis Fournier was hooked: “It’s like a Berlinette injected with today’s concepts.” The show car’s sporty, elegant, yet unarrogant lines struck a subtle balance between Alpine’s past and modern automobile thinking.
Alpine’s Marketing Director Arnaud Delebecque was all smiles: “Alpine owners are sticklers for defending the brand’s heritage. Their accolades sent a shiver down my spine.”
the Col de Turini
To mark Alpine’s renaissance, a convoy of 90 Berlinettes headed into the mountains en route to the Col de Turini. The colourful procession to the famous Rallye Monte Carlo landmark was led by the magnificent Z31, a sports version of the concept car.
During the 53km, 1½-hour climb, the drivers – with the seats of their low-slung cars just inches off the twisty asphalt – revelled in the agile, playful handling of their respective A110s, admired by the spectators who lined parts of the road.
The Col de Turini was reached as the sun was about to set and, once at the hallowed venue, the Alpine owners – veritable encyclopaedias of Alpine history – were only too happy to share their enthusiasm and personal anecdotes. Bernard Ollivier concluded the memorable day by unveiling a plaque at the Hôtel des Trois Vallées, a favourite haunt for fans. “We are back!”