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Apr 16, 2014 - 04:39 PM
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Alpine - Alpine Ready To Join Battle
Posted by: newsla on Apr 16, 2014 - 04:30 PM
Le Mans News
Alpine - Alpine Ready To Join Battle

A year ago, Alpine made its eagerly-anticipated racing comeback at Silverstone – and Signatech-Alpine went on to clinch the 2013 European Le Mans Series crown.


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In 2014, the Alpine A450 will be shared by Frenchmen Nelson Panciatici and Paul-Loup Chatin, plus Britain’s Oliver Webb.

The 2014 European Le Mans Series will rev into life at Silverstone on April 19. Signatech-Alpine will similarly take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14-15.

Thirty-five years after withdrawing from motorsport following its win in the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours, Alpine made its eagerly-awaited return to circuit racing in 2013 – and promptly triumphed in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).

With an ambitious programme ahead as it prepares for the launch of the new ‘Berlinette of the 21st Century’ (due to go on sale in 2016), Alpine is looking to defend its title this season. Three men will share the driving during what will be longer, four-hour races this year, with the outgoing ELMS champ Nelson Panciatici joined by Paul-Loup Chatin (Alpine’s ‘Junior’ driver in 2013) and ex-Formula Renault 3.5 Series runner Oliver Webb.
This year’s campaign, which is structured around the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the ELMS as its backbone, will also herald the arrival of new partners, such as Dieppe Maritime, a conglomeration of urban districts in the Dieppe region, long-time home of the Alpine brand. The Team keeps on working with Michelin, a long standing partner, which was involved in Alpine’s previous successes during the 1960’s and ‘70s.

“Humility has always been a hallmark of our brand and it continued to underpin our approach when we returned to endurance racing last season,” says Alpine Director Bernard Ollivier. “The objective of the programme’s first year was to reacquaint ourselves with the discipline. This season, our aim is to defend our European title right from the opening round at Silverstone, whilst the other key target will be to showcase our potential and performance in the Le Mans 24 Hours.”

“As defending champions, it would be inconceivable not to want to retain our ELMS title,” notes Signatech-Alpine Team Principal Philippe Sinault. “Our team received tremendous support throughout 2013, and it was fantastic to be able to share our success with everyone. In 2014, we need to confirm that promise as we continue to lay the foundations for Alpine’s renaissance. Season two ushers in a number of changes, including the promotion of our ‘Junior’ driver Paul-Loup Chatin to the main squad and the arrival of Britain’s Oliver Webb alongside Nelson Panciatici. We will similarly reveal some aesthetic modifications at Silverstone that are sure to please Alpine’s fans.”
The season got underway at the beginning of April with two days of testing at Paul Ricard, France. Notwithstanding a collision in the first session – which gave the technical staff a chance to demonstrate their talent as they restored the Alpine A450 to full health – Signatech-Alpine posted the fourth-fastest lap time and, crucially, completed a high number of laps.
The 2013 ELMS Champion Nelson Panciatici recalls the horrendous weather that marked last year’s visit to Silverstone: “We were fast, but the race was interrupted for a long time and ultimately halted early because of the rain. It was the most frustrating event of the season. This time round, we’re out for revenge. The target is victory and a big points haul!”

During the recent test alongside the other ELMS runners at Paul Ricard, it was Nelson who posted the fourth fastest lap: “I hadn’t driven the Alpine A450 for six months, so I needed to ease myself back into the rhythm and the art of navigating through the traffic. The two test days allowed us to conduct important work with Michelin’s new tyres. We made progress over long stints without losing sight of the need to work on the car’s outright performance. Our crew is nicely balanced and, even though the opposition looks fierce, I know we are in a position where we can fight for the title.”

Last year’s LM PC champion Paul-Loup Chatin is now steeling himself to do battle for the top step of the podium outright: “It will be essential to kick the season off on a high note, and I am really looking forward to Silverstone. It’s my favourite circuit. I love its fast, flowing sections. You need to retain plenty of speed from one turn to the next and occasionally sacrifice one corner to be quicker over the whole lap.”

Having previously driven the Alpine A450 at the pre-Le Mans 24 Hours Test Day in 2013, Paul-Loup had the opportunity to rack up the laps during official testing: “I was able to complete full stints, and the team collected a huge amount of data that will be useful over the coming season. We will certainly play a leading role and, as the defending title-holders, we will need to be on the pace and in the mix right from the first race.”
For Oliver Webb, the opening round of the campaign will take place on home soil, and the Briton will be firmly in the spotlight at Silverstone: “To compete in my first race with Alpine in my home country is extremely motivating. This will be only my second outing in LM P2, but I already feel confident behind the wheel of a prototype.”

Having sprung to prominence, like his team-mates, in Formula Renault, Oliver has no apprehension about embarking upon a career in endurance racing: “Driving the Alpine A450 is not dissimilar to driving a single-seater. I’m under no illusions that the LM P2 class will be tremendously competitive, but Signatech-Alpine are the defending champions and the season begins on home turf, so I can’t aim for anything less than victory.”

The event will be broadcast live on television throughout Europe and online at www.europeanlemansseries.com.

Friday, April 18
10:35am Free Practice 1 (60 minutes)
2:10pm Free Practice 2 (60 minutes)

Saturday, April 19
11:30am LM P2 and LM PC Qualifying (20 minutes)
1:15pm Autograph session (30 minutes)
2:30pm Race (4 hours)

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