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Alpine: Economic Factors Drove LMDh Program Choice

Alpine boss Laurent Rossi says the “sums were unreasonable” for brand to commit to LMH…

Photo: MPS Agency

Financial considerations played the greatest role in Alpine’s decision to pursue a program in LMDh rather than LMH, according to the Renault brand’s CEO Laurent Rossi.

Alpine on Tuesday announced the creation an LMDh car based on a cost-capped ORECA chassis, with development input from the French company’s Formula 1 department and race team Signatech.

Rossi later explained in an interview with French publication Endurance-Info that economic factors were central to Alpine’s decision to choose the LMDh regulations, which come with greater cost controls compared to the other available option of LMH.

He suggested that the “sums were unreasonable” for Alpine to commit to an LMH program, which likely would have involved the development of new bespoke parts such as a monocoque and a hybrid system.

Alpine will develop its own-branded engine for LMDh, but the hybrid electric motor is a common part and the chassis is provided by one of four selected constructors.

“LMH has a real interest in technical freedom, which emphasizes the search for absolute performance,” said Rossi.

“We have that in Formula 1. However, an LMH project requires more financial resources while LMDh makes it possible to amortize investments.

“Without LMDh, we would not have been able to continue the adventure because it is no longer possible to spend several hundred million Euros. The sums were unreasonable for everyone.

“LMDh makes the premier category accessible to everyone. The BoP levels the playing field. The bonus is ingenuity, which appeals to Alpine.”

Alpine assessed several key parameters before moving forward with the renewal of its involvement in top-level endurance racing from 2024.

The company is already active in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class with an Alpine-badged non-hybrid LMP1 car built by ORECA.

“I am delighted with this announcement of the Hypercar program,” said Rossi, who revealed that Alpine was “on the verge” of confirming its future program at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I was eager to unveil our ambitions. Technical feasibility was a subject that raised a lot of questions. We wondered how to be present in 2023, what Le Mans could look like, compatibility with Formula 1, technical and commercial synergies.

“We are not doing this program only for the beauty of the gesture.”

Alpine will run a pair of LMDh entries in the 2024 WEC season, although more examples of its car could end up competing in the hands of customers.

Rossi described having independent teams purchasing the Alpine LMDh as an “ambition” due to a potentially viable business case, and hinted that he would be open to customers running the product in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

However, Alpine doesn’t sell road cars in the U.S., meaning that its LMDh car cannot join the North American series under its own name. It would instead need to enter under a different affiliated brand with an appropriate market presence.

Asked if Alpine would consider entering IMSA under the name of another Renault company, Rossi said: “It’s a good question even if, for the moment, it is not part of the economic equation.

“Alpine wants to be competitive in WEC and at Le Mans. We have the ambition to have customers. If a team wants, it won’t be a problem to run an Alpine in IMSA.

“The sooner we have customers, the faster we will make the program profitable.”

Alpine “Must Be in the Game” Before LMDh

Rossi wants Alpine to remain on the WEC grid during both seasons that will take place between now and the debut of its LMDh car.

Alpine is eager for the FIA and ACO to grant an extension to the one-year grandfathering of its Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 which currently races against LMH machinery.

Even bigger question marks hover above Alpine’s plans for 2023, when LMDh cars from different constructors are set to join the WEC and IMSA top classes en masse.

Asked about what Alpine will do next season, Rossi responded: “Work on the details after the great performance of 2021.

“I hope we can have an exemption from the current model for 2022.”

On the subject of 2023, he said: “Could this [program] go through a return to LMP2? A Garage 56 with a demonstrator on a technological or social cause?

“Alpine must be in the game in 2023. It is clear that if Alpine was to win Le Mans with the current car, there will be no question of seeing it again in 2023.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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