In a short two hour period on Monday morning, both Peugeot Sport and Renault (via its Alpine sporting subsidiary) expanded on plans to return to the top tier of endurance racing.
Renault’s initial plans focus on fielding a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 car for next year’s full FIA World Endurance Championship, thus keeping one of the impressive soon-to-be ex-Rebellion Racing machines in the championship.
That program is entrusted to Signatech, a bench team that has brought two European titles, two WEC class titles and no fewer than three Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class wins to the Alpine brand since the program began in 2013.
Nonetheless it is a remarkable turnaround for Alpine, which faced the very real possibility of disappearing in the wake of the industrial chaos following the COVID-19 shutdown; the brand’s historic Dieppe plant under real threat of permanent closure just two months ago.
Since then though, with new management at the helm of Renault in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal, the Alpine brand has been adopted ahead of the previous ‘Renault Sport’ brand as the company’s ‘halo’ sporting identity and, remarkably, is now set to feature in both Formula 1 with the rebranded Alpine F1 team, and the FIA WEC.
There’s no news yet of a longer-term plan to keep the brand in the upcoming ‘converged’ top class in the WEC, which will bring the ACO’s Le Mans Hypercars, set to debut in 2021, and updated versions of IMSA’s second generation DPis together as one combined class, but it’s clear that those behind this newly-announced project are looking with real interest at Le Mans in 2023, the centenary race, as being a very significant global moment.
Peugeot, meanwhile, has confirmed that more details of its WEC program for 2022 will be announced at Le Mans on Friday. RACER expects the company to confirm that it will field a Le Mans Hypercar for either a full, or near-full, 2022 season and beyond together, with technical partner Total.
Further announcements this week should confirm both the final top class regulations, and, potentially, a new name for the class.
Details of when the ACO will allow entries to that combined top class may well also be revealed, and may give some further clues about the options for Renault Alpine and others in the next two years.