Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes are the first two drivers confirmed at Signatech Alpine, which will see the Philippe Sinault-led team update from the open-top Oreca 03R chassis to the Oreca 05 coupe this year. (En Français)
With the Alpine branding, the car is rebadged as the Alpine A460.
Lapierre was a key cog in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning effort, with KCMG in its Oreca 05 Nissan. Now, the Frenchman and ex-Toyota factory ace will return to a full-time seat after a year of intermittent driving.
He’ll also have a start in another Oreca 05, DragonSpeed’s chassis, at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Henrik Hedman and Nicolas Minassian.
Menezes, meanwhile, shifts into sports cars from open-wheel following a successful test at Bahrain last fall with the team.
The young American has been plying his trade in Europe in Formula 3 with Carlin, but also has prototype experience from a handful of Prototype Challenge races with RSR Racing in IMSA.
“It will obviously be a big change after three years of Formula 3, but it was the right moment to move on,” said the 21-year-old Californian.
“We spent the second half of 2015 exploring all the available options to determine what would be best to advance my career. We spoke to several teams, and when I tested with Signatech-Alpine in Bahrain, I was blown away!
“Being a heavier car than I’ve been used to, I could feel the extra power and the weight transfer, but at the same time you can really push it to the limit and have the confidence to lean on it through the quick corners because there is so much grip – and the brakes are incredible!”
“I’m delighted that we have been able to reach an agreement with Gustavo,” Sinault added. “I followed his progress keenly in F3, and when he tested with us in Bahrain last November, he demonstrated a strong level of performance.
“What’s more, he already comes with some LMP experience from the United SportsCar Championship.
“It is clear that he possesses genuine potential and all the necessary attributes to become a valued member of the Alpine family.”
It’s the second Alpine A460 entry confirmed today, with DC Racing also announcing its FIA WEC efforts earlier.
The team had featured Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici, Vincent Capillaire and Tom Dillmann at various points in the 2015 WEC season. Capillaire is now part of the SO24! by Lombard Racing entry.