The Signatech Alpine programme arrived last year with a blossoming of French pride over the return to international sportscar racing of a famous French name.
The European Le Mans Series teams and drivers’ titles followed for their rebranded Oreca Nissan package after an impressively pacey and consistent season. Plans were afoot as late as the turn of the year for the team to graduate to the FIA WEC but when the season entry lists emerged the team were on the ELMS entry rather than the WEC, and worse still one of their pair of full season cars only made the reserve list for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The net result of all of that is that an announcement today of the driver line-up for Signatech Alpine makes no mention whatsoever of the second car either at Le Mans, or indeed in the ELMS, and previous Alpine driver Pierre Ragues is known to have been released by the team
“The second car, is on hold,” confirmed a team spokesperson earlier this morning, “without a confirmed Le Mans place it is very difficult.”
The driver line-up for the first car is another impressive ELMS entry.
Last year’s European Le Mans Series Drivers’ champion Nelson Panciatici will continue in the Alpine A450 in 2014: “Since winning the ELMS trophy, all I want to do is win more races. We are determined to defend our titles and also perform well at Le Mans. Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb are both very strong drivers.”
In addition to being Alpine’s ‘Junior’ driver in 2013, Paul-Loup Chatin was the revelation of the season. He claimed the LM PC title in the European Le Mans Series in impressive style and always looked set to graduate to LMP2.
“It’s another step up the ladder,” says Paul-Loup. “Moving to Signatech-Alpine was something of a gamble, but the titles it won in 2013 are proof that the project was built on solid foundations. The objective now is to continue the upward curve. It will be up to us to match the team’s ambitions.”
In terms of its drivers, Signatech-Alpine was an all-French operation in 2013, but this year has seen it take on a more international dimension with the arrival of the up-and-coming British youngster Oliver Webb who has already seen LMP2 action this year with a run in the Daytona 24 Hours for the OAK Racing team.
The 22-year old is poised to start his first season of endurance racing after a strong early career in single-seaters. Like his new team-mates, he intends to use his experience to win with Signatech-Alpine, while his integration in the squad has been facilitated by his special ties with France through his French mother.
“This will be a new adventure for me,” he underlines. “I like the spirit you find in endurance racing and I am also drawn by the idea of team racing. Driving for Signatech-Alpine is the ideal way for me to cut my teeth in the discipline. Alpine is part of the automobile industry’s heritage and is strongly associated with Le Mans. We have already started working together and I find the team to be extremely professional, friendly and bonded. There’s a great atmosphere and that has certainly contributed to the results it has racked up to date.”
“A new chapter in the brand’s extraordinary history began last season,” notes Bernard Ollivier. “We were aware that it was an ambitious programme when we announced it, yet the talent of everyone involved with the team and the hard work they all put in helped us to claim our first successes of the modern era. That was just the beginning of the adventure. Alpine’s roots are steeped in motorsport, human adventure, a taste for technical challenges and exciting production car projects. We also have an international calling and we are delighted to announce that we will have a British driver in our line-up for 2014.”
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal:
“The human adventure which started at the beginning of 2013, the popularity of Alpine’s return to motor racing and the different trophies we have won since have sparked off an incredible energy, and our second season promises to be even more captivating! Everyone in the team is ready for the year’s challenge and the focus of their motivation is very much on the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
The Alpine A450 will make its first public appearance of the year on April 1-2 at the European Le Mans Series’ official pre-season test at Le Castellet, France.