Alpine looks to trounce Peugeot in French fight on Le Mans debut

Le Mans News

Alpine's Hypercar makes its Le Mans debut this weekend, 46 years after its last victory. Its motor sport boss, Bruno Famin, says the team is harnessing history to beat Peugeot in a rare top-level battle between French teams

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All roads lead to Le Mans for a French endurance team


You can picture it now: Les Bleus Alpine hypercars in formation, cruising down the Champs-Élysées, with fervently patriotic crowds screaming adulation as they spill over barriers barely containing the throng.

As the victorious crews reach the Arc de Triomphe red, white and blue ticker tape cascades down, La Marseillaise echoing from street to street.

It was a similar scene which greeted the victorious Renault-Alpine team of Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jassaud when they took a famous Le Mans win in 1978, seeing off a bevy of Porsche 936 and 935 machines driven by the likes of Jacky Ickx, Hurley Haywood and Brian Redman.

It might all seem a way off, but Alpine motor sport boss Bruno Famin admits the “dream” today is the same, as the Renault-backed squad – looking like France’s best chance of some success at Le Mans 2024 – prepares for its first top class La Sarthe assault as a constructor in decades.

Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi drive the A442B through the streets of Paris

Renault-Alpine took the laurels in 1978 – here Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud drive the A442B through the streets of Paris in celebration


Speaking to Motor Sport, the Alpine man says he wants to see his team take inspiration from its past glories and a history intertwined with the 24-hour classic, having made its debut in 1963 and first attempt at overall victory five years later.

“It’s a golden era for endurance – we’ve never seen that before and we’re happy to be part of it,” he says.

“Especially with the history we have at Le Mans. Alpine was still very, very young then, but was racing there in 1963 – a long history there in the ’60s, in the ’70s, with the win in 1978. It’s part of the story – and we’re proud to develop this.”

However, the Alpine boss is experienced with manufacturer projects, having overseen Peugeot’s sporting interests for many years also – he’s too long in the tooth to get ahead of himself.

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Fervent home support for Les Bleus would love to see some Alpine success


“Everybody dreams, of course, but it’s at the dream level. Let’s be realistic, do our job properly, no mistake – that’s the first goal.”

And that Alpine has been doing, with a respectable showing in the World Endurance Championship – a series that’s fast becoming one of the most competitive championships in the world.

From the archive

It’s some contrast to Renault-Alpine’s previous full-blooded top class entrance, when the pace-setting A442 led the 1977 Le Mans 1-2-3 before each dropping out with reliability issues, before the triumphant ’78 race.

While others have entered WEC amidst much drama and reliability issues, the Alpine has been solid, with one of its crews – the No35 of Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup Chatin – knocking on the door of the top 10 in the standings.

The car was seventh on debut in Qatar and then bagged more points in Spa too. Ferdinand Habsburg was part of the No35 for that Losail bow before he fell victim to the car’s only major reliability issue shown so far, a brake failure while testing at Aragon.

Suffering broken vertebrae, the Austrian was replaced for the Italian and Belgian rounds by GT veteran Jules Gounon, who helped the team secure ninth place in the latter. Habsburg returns for Le Mans.

The No36 machine, featuring a bit of grand prix stardust in the form of Mick Schumacher and serious sports car credentials from Nicholas Lapierre plus Matthieu Vaxivière, has shown top-ten speed on occasion but just hasn’t put it all together for a race.

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Well-oiled Signatech crew has huge Le Mans experience


The promising pace so far has been helped by the fact that the team – while branded Alpine – is run by the well-oiled Signatech, a squad with three LMP2 Le Mans class wins to it’s name: it’s serious sports car pedigree.

“It’s a bit early to rate the project, but the start is not bad, not bad at all because we have not had any reliability problem during the races,” says Famin.

“This does not mean we are fully okay on that side, we still have a lot to work on especially for the 24 hours.

“But the team is learning quite fast, it looks like the car is quite good, though we still need to learn more about how to extract the performance from the car especially.”

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Driver line-up has acquitted itself well so far in 2024


When asked what the trickiest aspect of taking on Le Mans this year will be, Famin points to a familiar theme heard amongst competitors.

“Especially, starting with the cold tyres is very specific now,” he emphasises.

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“You can see that some manufacturers or teams are making big differences during the first two laps of the stint.

“And on managing the tyres during the full duration of distance. The fight will be fierce, the cars are very close and for the time being we are the newcomers up against great competitors with a lot of experience.”

The competition at the sharp end in WEC is fiercer than ever. Not only are the manufacturer big guns like Toyota, Ferrari and Porsche throwing their weight around, independent teams like JOTA and Proton are now having a say too, with the former winning at Spa – not to mention Lamborghini, Cadillac, BMW and Peugeot, of course, in a 23-car top class for the big race.

Press Famin on who he sees as the rivals, and he reaches for a cliché – but one that has pproved its worth over the decades at Le Mans.

“We will race against ourselves,” he says. “We will make our race.

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Fiery opening 2024 WEC race brought points


“We will focus on making no mistake from the team, from the drivers, trying to have a good strategy on pushing the car as much as we can to fight. The goal is to finish.”

The last proper top class fight between two French manufacturers was – wait for it – 101 years ago, when Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard headed home Christian Dauvergne and Raoul Bachmann for a Chenard et Walcker, coming out on top in the battle against Bignon at the very first Le Mans 24 Hours.

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Fast-forward a century, and it’s Peugeot that forms the other competitor for top plaudits at the home race. How does Famin view the challenge from the 9X8, which is now in its second full season of racing?

“As far as we are in front, there is no rivalry,” he smirks of a manufacturer that has three points to its name in total so far this year.

Along with the F1 team, the Alpine WEC effort is all part of a PR campaign to raise awareness for road-going versions of Renault’s sportier brand.

Although Famin won’t be drawn on how long-term results on track could translate into showroom success, the Frenchman knows how it all works – his above-mentioned Pug stint lasted almost 14 years.

Peugeot’s now CEO Linda Jackson recently threatened its WEC Hypercar team that action would be taken if results didn’t improve soon, saying it needed wins to “justify” its investment. Is the line taken at Alpine similar?

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“There’s pressure, but it’s good pressure,” he says. “We’re super happy to be joining such a big championship now – it’s part of the plan of helping to develop the brand awareness globally.

“Le Mans is already global, but the WEC is becoming global now as well. It’s a golden era for endurance racing – I think we have never seen that before.”

And while it’s all about taking things “step by step”, resurrecting the former glories of Jassaud and Pironi is still at the forefront of Alpine minds.

“Le Mans remains Le Mans. It’s a unique race, and everyone dreams to win.”