1978 : The A442B is anointed
40 years ago. June 10th. Four in the afternoon. Four cars from the Renault Alpine stable take to the track for the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most famous endurance race in the world of motor sport. In the stifling heat, in an enclosed cockpit, the two drivers, Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, take turns at the wheel. In an eventful race, the A442B racks up lap after lap, negotiating bend after bend and barrelling down that endless straight. Records fall. Including the fastest-ever average speed, clocked at 210 kph.
The Alpine leads the field to cross the finish line and hit the 5,000 km mark five laps ahead of its rivals. The French team goes wild. The champagne flows and the champions are given a heroes’ welcome when they parade down the Champs-Elysées. The A442B win at Le Mans is a crowning achievement for the Renault Alpine team in the world of motor racing following Alpine’s impressive debut in winning the WRC manufacturers’ championship in 1973.
at 210 kph
eyes the win
Returning to the track in 2013, Alpine partners Signatech in 2016 to win the 84th 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMP2 category. As the rain falls, the A460 emblazoned with the number 36 gets off to a flying start and takes control of the race under the blanket of night. The competition is fierce, but the three-man team led by Nicolas Lapierre seals the victory, adding the Word Endurance Championship (WEC) trophy to their haul. The French national anthem fills the air. Alpine is back.
Fast-forward to 2018. Alpine is again using the 600 hp V8 it unveiled in 2017. The A470 will start the 24-hour race sporting its lucky number 36. The three drivers complement one another perfectly: the experience of captain Nicolas Lapierre, the spirit of André Negrao and the thirst of newcomer Pierre Thiriet. All eyes are on the win.
“I constantly think about the race and go over the things I could improve in my mind all year. I am obsessed with getting the best quality sleep, the kind that gives you staying power and the ability to get up in the middle of the night to get behind the wheel again. Light therapy helps, as does food. Learning how to sleep with one eye open is a real challenge,” says Nicolas Lapierre.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans lasts 365 days a year!
Nicolas Lapierre - Alpine A470 no. 36 driver
Le Mans: a track length of 13,626 metres, with infamous bends like Arnage and Mulsanne, and known the world over for that Hunaudières straight: 5.8 kilometres with the pedal to the metal, reaching speeds close to 400 kph.
Those who dare challenge the beast must undergo an intensive training programme. A programme that involves a battery of tests, day and night: trials, road sessions, track analysis, shared insight between mechanics… every detail counts. All with the aim of making the A470 faster and more reliable on the day of the race.
That winning edge
Technique means nothing without that human touch. You need to be able to withstand the pressure and cope with the acceleration, braking, fatigue and weather conditions. Workouts and relaxation sessions, advice from a nutritionist, and help from a psychologist are all part of the arsenal.
People bring the wins.
Nicolas Lapierre - Driver, Alpine A470 no. 36
JOURNALIST : Alexis Chenu
PHOTOGRAPHY : DPPI