Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre says that the Hypercar team is “happy Le Mans is behind us” as it switches its focus to keeping its FIA World Endurance Championship points lead.
Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere had a challenging 24 Hours of Le Mans last month, as separate electric clutch control unit and ignition coil problems in the early stages dashed their podium hopes.
Balance of Performance changes in the build-up also made for a difficult week off-track, but Alpine is confident that it can bounce back for the final three rounds of the year.
The drivers of the No. 36 Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 car have 81 points; three more than the Le Mans-winning No. 8 Toyota crew of Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley. Toyota leads Alpine in the manufacturers’ standings, meanwhile.
“At the beginning of the season, knowing the characteristics of our car, we knew that Le Mans was going to be the toughest race of the year,” Lapierre told Sportscar365.
“Because we are lacking top speed and acceleration compared to the other cars. So Le Mans is not the place we would have shined.
“Still, I was disappointed with the result and the way it happened as well.
“It was a bit hard, but I’m happy it’s behind us. We could keep the lead in the drivers’ championship, so that’s still good.
“Obviously it’s going to be a hard end of the season because we are not the favorites, but it’s always good to be in this position.
“You see in the paddock now that Peugeot is back, the whole pressure has raised quite a bit. There are more cars that will push each other, so it’s a different story from now.”
Lapierre added that he is relishing the opportunity to be involved in a world title fight, after Alpine dropped out of mathematical contention after the penultimate round last season.
“It’s cool,” he said. “On track, we’re probably going to be a bit slower than Toyota and they’re going to be longer on fuel, so they are still the favorites. But it’s still nice to be there.
“There are only three races left, so anything can happen.
“Toyota had a few troubles since the beginning of the year. We also had some trouble in Le Mans. It seems a lot of things can still happen before Bahrain.
“Having more cars in Hypercar makes it more interesting. Next year is going to be amazing for sure.”
Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault believes that the Signatech-run squad now has “something to play for” after emerging from Le Mans as the championship leader.
He told Sportscar365: “At the start of the season, if you came to me and say, ‘Philippe, you will be leading the championship at Monza’, I would say, really!? That’s so nice, where do I sign?
“For sure we have to be motivated and we are. We have something to play for, it’s fantastic.
“We are realistic guys so we know that it will be so hard, but with the Peugeot arriving many things can happen.”
Sinault said there were detailed talks between Alpine and WEC organizers the FIA and ACO after Le Mans, in the wake of Le Mans and the grandfathered A480’s multiple power adjustments through the BoP.
For Monza, the Alpine has received an 11 kW (around 15 hp) power gain and a stint energy increase although the former is only 4 kW relative to what the Toyotas gained.
“Le Mans was difficult for sure, because we expected a better result,” Sinault said.
“We put the finger on the main matter. I don’t want to avoid the problem, but since the start of the project, we know that it’s not easy to manage our car.
“Le Mans was not right, something was wrong. Because all the systems were under pressure and they didn’t realize exactly our right level of performance.
“On one lap, we were there. During the race it was different. With the comeback of the BoP [after hyperpole], we were not able to do something during the race. We were like spectators.
“Now it’s over and we have to be focused on the last three races. We have something to play for.”