Renault has announced that French brand Alpine will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year after a 35-year absence from the event.
Backed by Renault and with the support of Nissan, an Alpine prototype racecar will compete in the 2013 European Le Mans Series endurance racing championship (ELMS), as well as at endurance racing’s toughest challenge, the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The move follows last year’s decision that Renault and specialist British sports car company Caterham would form an alliance with the intention of a complete revival of the Alpine brand including building new affordable sports cars – the first new car of which is due to launch in 2016 – and the unveiling in May 2012 of the 298kW/422Nm Alpine A110-50 concept car (pictured below), designed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Alpine A110 Berlinette.
The 2013 Alpine LM P2 prototype will be based on an Alpine chassis with power coming from a Nissan-supplied 368kW engine. Two of the team’s three drivers have been announced – Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues – while the name of the third driver required for Le Mans will be announced at the car’s official launch in France on March 24.
Renault chief operating officer Carlos Tavares said Alpine’s return to the legendary Le Mans race marks the beginning of a new adventure for the brand which is set to last.
“The passion that drives us is matched only by the humility and careful attention paid to costs that epitomise this comeback which itself has been made possible thanks to the involvement of our partners and supporters.
“Together, step by step, we will do our very best to write another exciting page in the history of Alpine, a truly outstanding name in the world of French sports cars.”
Alpine contested the gruelling 24-Hour race 11 times between 1963 and 1978, claiming outright victory in 1978 with the Alpine A442B prototype driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi. While Audi has dominated the event in recent years – winning six of the past seven years – Porsche remains the most successful manufacturer with a record 16 overall victories, including a record seven wins in a row.
Round one of the ELMS will be held at the Silverstone circuit in England on April 13, ahead of the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours run over June 22-23 at the famous 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe in France.