Alpine Tricolore Spirit

24 Hours of Le Mans Museum, France

Until October 6, 2024

With the Alpine Tricolore Spirit exhibition (Tricolore, 3 colors refer to the 3 colors of the French flag), the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum highlights the important relationship between Alpine brand and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Alpine, founded in 1955 by Jean Redele, has built its sporting image and track record mainly around the A110 Berlinetta and rallying, the Dieppe-based brand has also raced extensively on circuits, and particularly at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alpine’s genuine return to the premier endurance class in 2024 with a Hypercar was an excellent opportunity to look back on the many pages written by Alpine at Le Mans.

The Alpine Tricolore Spirit exhibition features a dozen cars, all of which (with the exception of the A110) took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A motor sport enthusiast from an early age, Jean Redele began racing with an improved Renault 4 CV in the great rallies of the 1950s: Monte Carlo, Mille Miles, Liège-Rome-Liège… He also raced on circuits, notably the 24 Hours of Le Mans. From 1952 onwards, he designed more aerodynamic bodies, coupés and barquettes to make better use of the 4 CV’s small engine, such as the Renault CD with which he raced his last 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953.

From 1955 onwards, Jean Redele embarked on the adventure of building sports and racing cars, under the Alpine brand in reference to his successes on the roads of the Alps. The A110 may never have raced at Le Mans, but it is Alpine’s most famous car, known the world over and retaining a huge following. Renault made no mistake in offering a modern interpretation of the Berlinette when it relaunched the brand with the new A110 in 2017.

Alpine’s history with Le Mans spans 3 periods. In 1963, 10 years after racing there, Jean Redele returned to Le Mans as a manufacturer with the M63. Its chassis is that of the A110, with aerodynamic bodywork and a 1300 cm3 Renault engine designed by Amedee Gordini. Alpine was not aiming for overall victory, but rather for class victories and what was known at the time as the fuel efficiency index, which concerned lightweight cars with small engines, and which Alpine won several times between 1963 and 1969. The M64 succeeded the M63, and then came the A210, which completed a hat-trick of class wins in 1966 and 1967, placing just behind the “big” Fords, Ferraris and Porsches.

In 1968 and 1969, Alpine entered the A220 (while continuing with the A210), which featured a new 3-liter V8 engine designed by Gordini for Renault, this time aiming for overall victory. But with the engine lacking power in the face of the competition and encountering numerous reliability problems, the A220 was not a great sporting success, and 1969 was to be Alpine’s last year at Le Mans, at least for this initial period.

Alpine focused on rallyes with the A110 mentioned above, with the success we all know. In the early 1970s, when Renault had acquired Alpine a few years earlier, Alpine entered the European Sport-Prototype Championship in the 2-liter class. Alpine returned to Le Mans in 1975 with the A441. The car was entered by Elf Switzerland and entrusted to a female crew, Marie-Claude Beaumont and Lella Lombardi. The aim was above all to carry out a “real-life” test before officially returning in 1976 with the A442 and its 2-liter turbocharged V6 to aim for overall victory.

This goal was achieved in 1978 with the A442B. The car’s distinguishing feature is the open bubble above the cockpit, which gives a few km/h more top speed at the cost of a much higher cockpit temperature. The 2 drivers, Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, suffered in the sweltering heat, but won the grail and Alpine (or Renault-Alpine, to be precise) finally won at Le Mans! Victory achieved, Renault leaves endurance racing to devote itself to F1.

The 3rd Alpine period at Le Mans begins with Renault’s decision to relaunch the Alpine brand. Several concepts based on the lines of the A110 from the 1960s/70s are presented before the final version goes into production in 2018. The return to competition brings the Alpine name back into the limelight. In 2013, an Oreca-Nissan rebadged as Alpine starts the 24 Hours in the LMP2 class, supported by the Signatech team. Alpine won the LMP2 class 3 times in 2016, 2018 and 2019. On display from this period are the 2016 Alpine A460 LMP2 and the Alpine A480, which finished 3rd in 2021, behind the untouchable Toyota Hypercar hybrids.

The exhibition concludes with the beautiful Alpine A424 Hypercar (model), prepared for Alpine’s return to the highest level. The mythical Alpine blue and a rear light signature with the arrowed “A” of the Alpine logo are featured. For its first participation, the A424 showed great promise on the 24 Hours 2024 track, with one of the cars taking part in the hyperpole. Let’s bet that the next pages of the Alpine at Le Mans book will be just as beautiful as the previous ones!

In a small room, a film retraces the different Alpine periods at Le Mans.

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