Alpine is “looking at various ways” to continue its endurance racing involvement into LMH or LMDh and will decide whether it launches a program by the end of this year.
The CEO of the Renault group brand, Laurent Rossi, told reporters that Alpine has a desire to continue in top-level prototype racing beyond its current entry into the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class with a grandfathered LMP1 car.
He explained that while Alpine is not in a position to announce an LMH or LMDh program, it is nonetheless keen to examine how it might develop a new car for the future.
“It’s something we look at with a very positive eye, but we haven’t made a decision yet because we need a bit more time to look at all the parameters,” said Rossi.
“That is basically the economic equation and the thought of how it takes for us to carry on racing in endurance, but with a chance of winning. Not just to be present.
“We should expect to make up our minds by the end of the year.”
Rossi would not divulge the factors affecting Alpine’s deliberations between the LMH and LMDh formulas, both of which will be eligible for the WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. LMH is already active, while LMDh arrives in 2023.
The LMH formula, which permits manufacturers to develop their own hybrid systems, has attracted Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari, Glickenhaus and ByKolles while the spec-hybrid LMDh has gained registrations from Audi, Porsche, BMW and Acura so far.
“I’m not going to go into too many details because they are elements of decision and I don’t want to give too much away,” said Rossi.
“But there’s obviously the presence in some markets that are of interest to us.
“There’s also the typology of competitors: ones we feel like the Alpine brand would be more natural to measure yourself to. And so those are the two things we are looking at, amongst others obviously.
“That could then sway the decision towards one or the others. And investment, obviously. But that’s another story.”
Rossi indicated that the projected timeline for entering LMH or LMDh is “part of the decision process” and acknowledged that it would be challenging for the brand to be ready for a 2023 race debut.
“We would love to be there in 2023 for the hundred years of Le Mans,” he said.
“But we also have to face the reality of how much time it takes to build the team and bring the right technology into the team, so that it’s really an Alpine.
“It could be between 2023 and 2024. Between now and the end of the year we will form an opinion and decide whether we carry on and in which category, and on which timeline.”
Endurance Entry Can “Complement” F1 Setup
A continuation in prototype racing into the LMH/LMDh era makes sense from an Alpine commercial perspective according to Rossi, who explained that a potential project would “complement” its existing Formula One squad in terms of public engagement.
Alpine F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon are at Le Mans this weekend to perform demonstration laps in Alpine F1 and GT4 machinery ahead of the 24-hour race.
“The idea is that the fanbase following Formula One and the fanbase following endurance have a bit of an overlap,” said Rossi.
“Our objective is to expand the brand awareness around Alpine. Because it’s the new sports brand for Groupe Renault, and if we want to do that, we can’t just stay in Formula One.
“It’s a big audience, but it’s by no means representative of all the possible consumers that we would like to provide our cars to in the future. In that respect, endurance is a complement to Formula One.”
Rossi added that Alpine wants to “leverage” the skills of its UK-based Grand Prix team in light of extra resources being freed up by the implementation of an F1 cost cap.
“It is not absurd to think that the best aero, suspension and braking engineers — and powertrain engineers in theory, because the cost cap will probably be in place there at some point as well — are going to be able to not focus on just one thing,” he said.
“The idea is to try and leverage the expertise.”