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WEC Monza

Alpine's first 2023 WEC podium at Monza "a huge relief"

The Signatech-run Alpine squad's first World Endurance Championship podium of the season in LMP2 came as a "huge relief", according to team boss Philippe Sinault.

#36 Alpine ELF Team Oreca 07 - Gibson: Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal, Charles Milesi

After scoring outright wins at Sebring and Monza with its A480 grandfathered LMP1 car in the Hypercar class last season, Alpine reverted to LMP2 this season ahead of a planned return to the top class with the A424 LMDh car developed with ORECA for 2023.

However, the 2016 and 2018-19 LMP2 championship-winning team endured a trying opening three rounds to the season with seventh at Spa its best result, before the #31 WRT crew's late suspension issues at the Le Mans 24 Hours elevated its #36 ORECA-Gibson 07 to fourth of the LMP2 runners and third among those eligible for WEC points.

At Monza, Alpine recorded its first WEC podium with second for Charles Milesi, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Julien Canal, moving up a position in the final hour once more at the expense of the #31 WRT ORECA that suffered an engine failure while contending for victory.

The all-French line-up led with 18 minutes to go before finishing a lap behind the winning Jota Sport ORECA of Pietro Fittipaldi, Oliver Rasmussen and David Heinemeier Hansson.

"This result is a huge relief," said Sinault.

"We showed much improvement at Le Mans, but we absolutely had to confirm that momentum at Monza."

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Sinault said that key to its approach had been a decision to offset the strategies of its two cars "to avoid any manoeuvre and to lose time for nothing" in the pits. The #36 car was alone among the LMP2 pack in not pitting under the race's first safety car on lap 14.

The sister #35 machine of Andre Negrao, Olli Caldwell and Memo Rojas finished eighth, experiencing increased tyre degradation in the second stints.

"It’s good for everybody after the good race we did at Le Mans, the good dynamic is on our way now," he said.

"We stay really focused and never give up. It’s a really tough category, you have seen the gap between all the races, between all the contenders. 

"Today is P2, but it’s a good signal for us."

LMP2 Podium: #36 Alpine ELF Team Oreca 07 - Gibson: Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal, Charles Milesi

LMP2 Podium: #36 Alpine ELF Team Oreca 07 - Gibson: Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal, Charles Milesi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Milesi explained that Signatech's package "keeps improving since the start of the year, which shows that all the hard work put in by the team is paying off".

"We were in the right performance window, particularly late in the race, so we seized the opportunities and this podium is a testament to that," he said.

Gibson engine failure

The Gibson engine failure that caused the retirement of Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Sean Gelael's WRT machine was a new V8 installed for Monza.

The technical director for the Belgian squad's LMP2 programme, Sebastien Viger, explained that it had changed the British company's GK428, which is designed to last 50 hours, after finishing fifth at Le Mans.

"It happens sometimes you have an engine which has an electronics fault or all the teams will complain at one time they have an engine which is not as performant as others, this is motorsport," he told Motorsport.com.

"But it's rare to have to this extent an issue with the engine. 

"We changed the issue after Le Mans so this is also even rarer. It makes it an even harder pill to swallow to be honest."

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