Alpine A450 : A watery debut
14 Aprile 2013
- Signatech-Alpine was rewarded with fourth place for its competitive debut at the 3 Hours of Silverstone with drivers Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues.
- The opening round of the 2012 European Le Mans Series was interrupted after 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one hour behind the Safety Car after Race Control deemed the conditions to be too dangerous.
- Nelson Panciatici celebrated the brand’s return to racing by emerging in front thanks to an excellent start in the Alpine A450.
- Renault’s Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares was at the race to support the Signatech-Alpine team and follow the Alpine A450’s debut race.
The competitive debut of the Alpine A450, 35 years after the brand’s triumph at Le Mans in 1978, was marked by heavy rain.
The first Free Practice session saw Signatech-Alpine drivers Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues top the timesheets as they worked with the team to adapt the new Alpine A450’s set-up to the wet conditions. They were second fastest in Free Practice 2.
Nelson Panciatici went on to qualify the Alpine A450 on the second row of the grid.
The track was dry when the field was flagged away for the start of the race itself, but a storm broke out during the formation lap. Nelson Panciatici and the Alpine A450 started from third on the grid on Michelin slick tyres and emerged from the opening corner in the lead before the Safety Car was despatched at the end of Lap 1. At the end of Lap 5, Nelson pitted to fit ‘intermediate’ tyres.
After re-joining in ninth place, he started to carve his way back up through the field and was up to second before he handed the car over to Pierre Ragues.
With the Alpine A450 now on rain tyres, Pierre re-joined in fifth place and soon moved up one position before the Safety Car was sent out for a second time.
The competition was neutralised for an hour because of the impressive amount of standing water on the track. Race Control ultimately decided to interrupt the race ahead of the scheduled three hours. The positions at that moment became the official result, just as Signatech-Alpine was about to take advantage of its offset strategy.
“It was a very important weekend for everyone in the team,” stressed Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine’s Team Principal. “We worked very well to prepare for our first race of the year and it’s just a shame that it turned out to be such a frustrating afternoon. Our drivers did well to keep the Alpine A450 in one piece. Unfortunately, the horrendous conditions changed the whole face of the race. We were running to a strategy which could well have paid off if the race had gone the full three hours. The Safety Car and the early red flag prevented us from taking advantage of it.”
Nelson Panciatici: “I got away cleanly and managed to put the Alpine A450 in front. It was very difficult not to make any mistakes in the rain. The end of my stint on intermediate tyres was particularly tough. I was supposed to have got back into the car for the finish but the race was interrupted too soon.”
Pierre Ragues: “I believe we had the potential to finish on the podium, at the very least. We ran an offset strategy from the start. There was so much rain. It was just impossible to clear the water before the Safety Car was sent out. I am disappointed because the car’s potential was superior to our final finishing position.”
The Alpine team’s ‘Junior’ driver Paul-Loup Chatin came second in the LM PC class.
1, Jota Sport (Dolan/Turvey), 2h15m22.561s
2, Race Performance (Frey/Niederhauser)
3, Thiriet by TDS Racing (Thiriet/Hirschi)
4, Signatech Alpine (Ragues/Panciatici). Etc.
Next round: Imola, Italy (May 17-18).