On 12 June 1978, the Renault Alpine driven by Pironi and Jaussaud finished first at Le Mans, culminating an adventure that had started five years earlier.
Victory at the 24-hour Le Mans event is never a hit-or-miss affair. Renault’s 1978 victory, for example, traces back to 1973, when Alpine decided to return to top-level motor sports with backing from Elf. Key factors behind this successful performance were: a top-quality team, led by Jean Terramossi with Gérard Larousse as pivot; a V6 engine developed by Bernard Dudot, future mastermind of turbocharger technology; Renault involvement, through Renault Sport (founded in 1976); and talented, consistent drivers like Jabouille, Jaussaud, Jarier and Pironi.
Over the five-year period, the A440, with a normally-aspirated engine, would evolve into the 441, then into the turbocharged 442, achieving a long list of motor sport championship honours along the way. Hopes ran high for Le Mans in 1977, but all three runners were forced to drop out because of engine failure. The engineers would have to find a test track capable of reproducing the tough conditions of the Hunaudières straight, which meant 50 seconds with the throttle hard down! The next year, two Renault Alpines finished first and fourth. Ironically, on the eve of the race, Renault managing director Bernard Hanon had announced that Renault would be dropping its Le Mans programme to concentrate on Formula One. A new page had turned.
Source : Renault Classic
Alpine-Renault A442 in the atelier for the competition prototypes in Dieppe, in 1976.
The dream team : D. Pironi, A. Gordini, G. Larrousse, J.-P. Jaussaud at the 24 hours le Mans in 1978.
Crucial step in the competition: weigh-in. Renault Alpine's with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Gérard Larrousse, Derek Bell and Jean Ragnotti, at the 24 hours Le Mans 1978.
Alpine-Renault A442B at the 24 hours Le Mans 1978.
Podium for team Pironi - Jaussaud and Alpine!
Driving down the Champs-Elysées in the Renault Alpine on June 13, 1978.