- The new Alpine-Renault No. 36 racecar is taking part in a two-day test at Paul Ricard Circuit in France.
- The car, unveiled this week in Paris, returns the Alpine brand to endurance racing, ending a 35-year absence.
- Alpine won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978.
LE CASTELLET, France — The blue and orange No. 36 Alpine-Renault racecar unveiled earlier this week in Paris gets its first laps at speed today and tomorrow in a European Le Mans Series test session at Paul Ricard Circuit.
The car heralds Alpine's return to endurance racing, ending a 35-year absence since the French team was at the top of the podium after the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978.
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi were the drivers for that all-French effort in 1978, and the new incarnation of the team will also have a French flavor when it returns to the Sarthe this year. Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues, who will drive the car in the full ELMS schedule, and Tristan Gommendy, who will join the team for the 24 Hours, are all Frenchmen.
The car's chassis is by Société des Automobiles Alpine-Caterham, a joint effort between Caterham Cars and the former Alpine brand, now a Renault property. The two-seater will be powered by a Nissan V8 rated at 500 horsepower, and will compete in the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) 2 category.
It revives the Alpine brand, which was abandoned by Renault shortly after its purchase of the company in 1973, in motor racing.
Signatech, established in 1990, has had a measure of success, with championships in European and French Formula 3 and Formula Renault V6 Eurocup. The team entered ELMS competition in 2009 and also competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Alpine manufactured racing and sports cars from its founding in 1955 through 1995. The RenaultSport models are produced at the former Alpine production facility in Dieppe. Philippe Sinault is Signatech-Alpine team principal.
"Our aim is to be competitive in endurance racing's highly competitive LMP2 class," Sinault said. "We will use the different test sessions that are planned, as well as the first two rounds of the ELMS, to prepare for June's Le Mans 24 Hours which is clearly the focal point of the season."
Edmunds says: Victory at Le Mans with the Renault Alpine A442B in 1978 lifted the brand to the pinnacle. The new car carrying the Alpine name and iconic colors won't challenge the LMP1 powerhouse Audi for overall supremacy, but will return a historic image to Le Mans in June.