The Signatech-Alpine team just lifted the curtain to reveal the very latest model that’ll be running for the big A on the racetracks of the world in 2016. It goes under the name of A460, a reverential nod to the legendary A440 of the seventies, and a celebratory echo of Alpine’s 60th anniversary, feted last year. To make the most of the event, Alpine Célébration (in blue) and Alpine Vison (in white) made exclusive showings alongside the racers.
Unsurprisingly, Alpine’s keeping the characteristic livery it’s been sporting since its competition comeback in 2013, but the big news this season is that there’ll be two numbers on that blue and orange background: 35 and 36. New, too, is the closed cockpit, for improved aerodynamic efficacy, as well as driver safety. Under the bonnet, the prototypes boast a 5.5 litre V8 power plant (like that which powered the A450). This Renault-Nissan Alliance unit is coupled through a six-speed gearbox and delivers more than 550 bhp.
After a very encouraging first WEC season, crowned by success in the Six Hours of Shanghai event, the Alpine Signatech team is fielding two decidedly international teams this year.
Car n° 35, running under the Baxi DC Racing Alpine banner, will be in the capable hands of Nelson Panciatici, no stranger to Signatech Alpine, seconded by the promising Chinese duo David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung.
Number 36 will be driven by the talented French driver Nicolas Lapierre, the young Stéphane Richelmi, from Monaco, and the American Gustavo Menezes.
All things being equal, it looks neck-and-neck from here. So all we can say is “May the best Alpine win!”
“The prologue always has a crucial bearing on the season to come.” All the drivers seem pretty unanimous on this point, as, indeed, do the hordes of technicians avidly examining the latest data from the cars’ on-board computers. Drivers make the very most of this two-day event to get to know their cars inside out. And they’re not doing this by halves, judging from the hundred or so tyres used up by the two teams over the weekend trials. Engines a-roaring, the cars are put thoroughly through their paces, response capability tested to the limit along the straights and round the chicanes.
At the outcome of the prologue, we’re impressed by the very fine performance of team n° 36, clocking in the best time in the LMP2 category, at 1:46.974 (with N. Lapierre). Might that be a foretaste of things to come? Well, Silverstone marks the official start of the 2016 season in around a month’s time: you’ll get your answer then.