WEC
13 Jun
Race in
60 days
R
Monza
18 Jul
Race in
95 days
R
Fuji
26 Sep
Race in
165 days
R
Bahrain
20 Nov
Race in
220 days

What to expect from the LMP1 era's last survivor

While Alpine is still mulling the prospect of a Le Mans Hypercar entry to complement the reinvigorated brand's F1 team, its partner team Signatech is testing the waters in 2021 with the last remaining car from the outgoing LMP1 era.

What to expect from the LMP1 era's last survivor

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest has gone all-in on the new Hypercar regulations, which will finally come on stream in the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Toyota and Glickenhaus have signed up to be part of the new top class of the WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours from the very beginning,  but we will have to wait until 2022 for Peugeot to provide some factory competition for Toyota. And another year before Ferrari, Audi and Porsche join the party - the latter two via the cheaper LMDh formula.

That means in 2021, Toyota's main rival is likely to be a brand that has been making a big splash in the motorsport world over the past six months, but one that is still sitting on the fence regarding whether it should build a Hypercar of its own.

In conjunction with a revamp of the Renault F1 Team, Renault Group brand Alpine has also increased its presence in sportscar racing. Alpine has been rebadging Oreca LMP2 cars since 2015, when it formed a partnership with the Signatech and DC Racing outfits.

The link-up with Signatech yielded two LMP2 championships and three Le Mans triumphs in 2016 and 2018, 2019, underlining the French team's credentials as a suitable partner for Alpine to step up to the top class.

But rather than committing to the ACO's hypercar formula from the outset, Alpine is first testing the waters with a grandfathered Rebellion R-13 LMP1 chassis from Oreca, making it the last survivor of the LMP1 era.

Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao, who were in the car for respectively three and two of Signatech's Le Mans wins, will be joined by newcomer Mathieu Vaxiviere in what's been rechristened as the Alpine A480-Gibson, which mirrors the striking deep blue livery of the brand's Formula 1 car.

Although the A480 shares no shortage of DNA with the Oreca 07 LMP2 car, Signatech has nonetheless recruited several engineers to run the more complex LMP1 machine, which will be subject to a Balance of Performance to bring it into line with Toyota and Glickenhaus.

"The team is bigger now," Signatech's founder and team principal Philippe Sinault explains. "To operate this car we need more people. We recruited three more engineers, some mechanics and one more person in the composite department."

Lapierre said he was pleased "the key people are still the same" at the team's headquarters in Bourges. He added: "They were the strength of Alpine when we won the championship and Le Mans 24 in the past few years.

"Obviously, the team had to get a bit bigger to manage the BoP and all this new electronic stuff we have inside the car. But I still felt at home when I came back to Bourges, it was very easy for me to get back and integrate the family again."

Sinault explained that the team won't do any development work this year given the fact that it will be pegged back to match the slower laptimes of the new Hypercars, and that the A480 will run the full season with what last year's low-downforce Rebellion aerokit.

"We can develop the car, but at the moment our main concern is to have a good knowledge about the new regulations and to manage all the new electronic processes," he said. "The car is reliable already. So we have to work on the using of these new tools well."

Whether 2021 will convince Alpine to properly join the hypercar ranks is not yet clear, but Sinault says that option is still being discussed.

"We talk a lot with [Alpine CEO] Laurent Rossi and Alpine's technical staff about the future," he replied when asked about Alpine's future intentions. 

"For sure on the endurance racing platform at the moment, a lot things are moving. The subject is on the table but we first have 2021 to do."

A good performance in 2021, then, won't hurt the long-term prospects for Alpine in endurance racing's top class.

Whether Signatech will be able to take on the might of Toyota is unclear, nor are there any guarantees that the ACO will be able to find the right balance between the old non-hybrid LMP1 and a hybrid-powered hypercar designed to lap considerably slower.

But if Alpine has one ace up its sleeve compared to the competition, it's the fact that its Oreca-built car is a proven platform which already has three Le Mans starts under its belt, with two of those yielding overall podium finishes.

"We know the reliability was pretty good in the last few years," commented Negrao. "It did a lot of Le Mans, races and a lot of laps. So we know that the car is working very well. I think as soon as we know that the car is okay to go to Le Mans, we can fight for the win."

#36 Alpine A480 LMP1: André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

#36 Alpine A480 LMP1: André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Photo by: Alpine

shares
comments

Related video

PR1/Mathiasen to make WEC debut in Spa opener

Previous article

PR1/Mathiasen to make WEC debut in Spa opener

Next article

Fuoco gets WEC drive with Cetilar Ferrari squad

Fuoco gets WEC drive with Cetilar Ferrari squad
Load comments

About this article

Series Le Mans , WEC
Drivers Nicolas Lapierre , Andre Negrao , Matthieu Vaxiviere
Teams Signatech
Author Filip Cleeren
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020