Alpine Elf Endurance Team got down to work on Monday for its final outing in the LMP2 category of the FIA WEC. After two and a half days of service and preparation, the two Alpine A470s took to the track on Thursday for the first free practice session, marked by a sandstorm and thunderstorms at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Philippe Sinault's men immediately got into the swing of things, completing their programme despite the weather conditions and handed over the qualifying duties to Charles Milesi and André Negrão. The Frenchman put in a superb effort, scoring the team's best performance of the season with the second position in a session defined by fine margins while his Brazilian teammate had to settle for eleventh place.
Shortly before noon on Saturday, Matthieu Vaxiviere and André Negrão got behind the wheel of their Alpine A470s. A nervous field was unleashed after two formation laps and Matthieu Vaxiviere was forced to make an emergency move to avoid a collision at the first corner. On his return to the track, however, the Frenchman was involved in an incident and fell to tenth place with a damaged bonnet at the front right. Meanwhile, André Negrão did well to avoid the hazards and climb to fifth place. Put to the test in high temperatures, the team's drivers intensified their efforts in a complicated double stint before Memo Rojas and Julien Canal took over their share of the work, alternating with Olli Caldwell and Charles Milesi.
As darkness fell in Bahrain, the two crews continued to dig in their heels. Despite a five-second penalty for a pit lane infringement for the n°36 car, Les Bleus proved resilient and refused to give up. In hour six of the race, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere were back behind the wheel to continue their teammates' attacks before Olli Caldwell and Charles Milesi were on duty again. Although their work enabled them to be among the fastest in the final sprint, the gap built by the leaders in the early stages proved insurmountable.
Charles Milesi and the n°36 A470 finished seventh with the fastest lap in LMP2, three places ahead of the n°35 and André Negrão. Despite this frustrating result, Alpine leaves its successful LMP2 adventure with its head held high, with three world titles and two European crowns. In total, the A-arrow brand notched up 13 victories, including three in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 36 podium finishes and 7 pole positions in the 60 races run in the class since its return to endurance racing in 2013.
The Alpine and Signatech teams will now use the winter to prepare their return to the premier Hypercar category with the Alpine A424, which will make its racing debut in Qatar from 24 February to 2 March 2024.
"It was another race of highs and lows, but it was nice to live another year with Alpine despite the results being below our expectations. I made a strong start to climb from eleventh to fifth place, but we struggled with pace and tyre degradation. We improved our performance towards the end, but it was too late to hope for anything. Nevertheless, thanks to everyone in the team and let's see what the future brings!"
"The season is finished and I'd like to say a big thank you to the whole Alpine family and team for welcoming me into their Endurance programme. It was great to be alongside such experienced drivers in my first full season in the World Endurance Championship and it was a great experience to finish at Le Mans. I've learned a lot, but I still have much more to learn. It’s been a really good first year so thank you to everyone."
"It was a long season with many positives to remember but also a few disappointments, as is always the case in motorsport. It was a pleasure to drive with André and Olli this year, and I'm proud to have been part of the Alpine family, a great French racing name with a rich history and tradition in endurance racing. Everyone in the team has been amazing despite a tough and extremely competitive LMP2 campaign. Sometimes, we struggled to fight for the positions we aimed for, but our progress has been encouraging. Congratulations to the crews crowned in Bahrain, and a big thank you to Philippe, his team and my teammates."
"We struggled at the beginning of the season for our LMP2 return, but we consolidated our foundations until a strong and consistent race at Le Mans. We confirmed this with a podium at Monza and fourth place at Fuji. We would have liked to do better in Bahrain, but our chances suffered a big blow by a collision at the start in which I was merely a spectator. As the stints went on, we saved our tyres to show our potential in the final hours, but we were already too far behind. Our focus this year was primarily on the future. It's when things get tough that you learn the most, even more so in such a competitive category."
"It was a somewhat frustrating race given our position on the grid, but the incident at the start compromised our race from the outset. From then on, the rest of the race was always going to be difficult, and it proved to be so, with damage, a penalty and a few mistakes preventing us from extracting our full potential. Seventh place was not what we had hoped for to conclude the team's adventure in LMP2, but this season still allowed us to show some very positive things, especially at Le Mans, Monza and Fuji. Everyone can now focus on next year and all the work that must be done before Alpine returns to the premier class."
"The car was very competitive from the start of the weekend, as we showed in qualifying. Unfortunately, the start ruined our chances of a podium finish and I'm sure such a result was well within our grasp in Bahrain. That hasn't always been the case this season, but we've recovered well to be among the best performers and battle for the podium at several races on the calendar. That's what I want to remember, along with the great encounters and the discovery of a close-knit, professional team throughout the year."
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal
"This race echoed our season in that it was difficult. Fate didn't spare us, as the incident at the start prevented us from building on our fine qualifying performance, which we'd been slightly behind so far this year, and on the simulated long stints, which gave us reason to hope for a different scenario. Unfortunately, Matthieu had to avoid a collision before being hit twice. From then on, we were 30 seconds behind the leaders, and we had to change the front bonnet at the end of his stint. By the end of the race, we got back to a strong level of performance with our two cars, with a similar pace to the leaders. Looking back, Alpine's ten-year adventure in LMP2 has been fantastic. A chapter is closing today, but we must draw on all the things that have enabled us to build and give soul to this story: the victories, the titles, but also the drivers, engineers and mechanics who have trusted us and helped us to get these wonderful achievements. They have all made their contribution through their commitment. They have enabled us to prepare a future with different ambitions in the premier class, so a huge thank you to all these protagonists for their invaluable inputs."
8 Hours of Bahraïn – LMP2
1. Team WRT n°41
2. Team WRT n°31
3. JOTA n°28
7. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36
10. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°35
FIA Endurance LMP2 Trophy
1. Team WRT n°41 – 173 points
2. Inter Europol Compétition – 114 points
3. United Autosports n°22 – 105 points
7. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°36 – 83 points
11. Alpine Elf Endurance Team n°35 – 23 points