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Lapierre: Alpine “Pushed the Whole Race” for First Overall Win

Nico Lapierre on Alpine Endurance Team’s breakthrough first overall win…

Photo: MPS Agency

Nico Lapierre said Alpine Endurance Team “pushed the whole race” knowing it would have needed to overcome an additional pit stop compared to Toyota.

The French manufacturer scored its first overall FIA World Endurance Championship victory in Friday’s weather-affected opening round of the season with its grandfathered Alpine A480 Gibson.

Having started on pole, Lapierre and co-drivers Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao stretched out to nearly a 90-second lead over the pair of Toyota GR010 Hybrids until the first red flag for Jose Maria Lopez’s accident.

An emergency fuel stop for the No. 8 Toyota of Brendon Hartley shortly after the resumption ultimately put the grandfathered LMP1 car into a one-lap lead.

“We pushed the whole race,” Lapierre told Sportscar365. “We had to open a one-minute gap to do this pit stop in the end, which we would have had.

“We knew we had to do one more stop so we had to push to open the gap. 

“We were like 1 minute and 15 [seconds] by the red flag so it would have been OK to do the extra pit stop. But it was not as easy as it looks. 

“We had a very good race. It was a clean race for us. It was not easy but we did a very good job in terms of pace, strategy.”

Lapierre said that Alpine expected Toyota to be closer on race pace, which ultimately didn’t materialize.

“It was a bit closer than qualifying but we were surprised,” he said. “The Glickenhaus was also slow at the beginning but in the end they put some very good lap times. They were almost matching our pace.

“To be honest, we were a bit surprised because the gap was quite big. They did a lot of testing this winter and changed tires so we were expecting them to be faster.

“Here is a very special track. Let’s see where they are when we go to Spa which is more like a normal track. 

“This is good for us to be closer to them. Obviously we need this advantage on track in pace if we want to win. We had to do an extra pit stop. 

“We had to open the gap quite a lot to do this extra pit stop because we are still two laps down to them on the range. 

“At least it was more interesting for us than last year because last year we had no pace, no range. At least we now had a good pace and it was great for us to fight in the front.”

With the No. 7 Toyota not scoring any points, Lapierre said their early lead in the Hypercar championship has Alpine feeling optimistic for the rest of the season.

“Sebring is a lot of points,” he said. “It’s 38 [for the win] so that’s quite a lot. We just want to take it race by race. We know that on other tracks we won’t have this advantage so it’s going to be a bit different.

“But it’s good to score the first win on the first race. We’ll take it. We had a strong race with no mistakes in terms of strategy. So that’s good for the future.”

No Fuel Saving as Alpine Pushed for Gap

Signatech team principal Philippe Sinault noted that fuel-saving was out of the question for Alpine because it was focusing on using its pure pace to negate an extra stop.

At WEC races last year the team often found itself fuel saving in order to maximize its stint lengths to overcome having a smaller fuel tank compared with the LMH cars.

“We did not save fuel,” Sinault said. “To be honest, we pushed. We achieved 25 laps [per stint], 26 one time. It was a choice to create a gap and have a one-lap [lead].

“We pushed very hard at the start to create a gap. Immediately we have identified that we must stop once more, minimum. After that, it was under control.”

When asked if he felt the Hypercar BoP favored the grandfathered Alpine, Sinault replied: “When you are involved in the main category, you cannot be there to be a spectator.

“Because we have trusted this project since last year, especially since we have improved a lot: the team, the management. And especially because it’s Sebring, this [track] is more in accordance with the car.

“We expected more fight. But since we put the car on the track, we have asked the drivers and they have said the car is so easy and nice to drive. They were very pleased with the car.”

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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