RACER has learned the Alpine F1 team will demonstrate a car during race week at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans; a publicity opportunity that also points to likely confirmation of a future Hypercar program.
Le Mans organizers are famously reticent to allow private publicity stunts overshadow the prestige of the iconic endurance race, and green-lighting the demonstration by Alpine – which carried Esteban Ocon to a first grand prix in in Hungary – is a strong indication that the Renault-owned team is preparing to join the Hypercar ranks with a factory effort.
The brand is currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship with a grandfathered Rebellion R13 Gibson LMP1, rebranded as the Alpine A480, and there is no agreement in place for that effort to continue next season.
The 2021 WEC program has been part of an effort by the multiple LMP2 title-winning Signatech team which, together with representatives of the Alpine brand, has been providing regular updates to senior Renault management on progress, with a view to securing a commitment to a future Hypercar program. The centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2023 a likely target.
If confirmed, Alpine will race alongside an increasingly impressive roster of factory efforts in the Hypercar class, with current competitors Toyota and Glickenhaus set to be joined in 2022 by Peugeot, and Ferrari, Porsche and Audi already confirmed for 2023. Additional WEC program announcements are also expected by Cadillac (2023) and Lamborghini (2024).
Any Alpine F1 demonstration is most likely to be undertaken with an older (rebranded Renault) car due to testing/filming day restrictions, and the car is unlikely to be allowed to run a complete lap at full speed. The driver for the demonstration is yet to be conformed, but sources have suggested that both Ocon, and teammate and former Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso could be in attendance.
The demonstration will be the first time for many years that a near-contemporary F1 car has run on the Le Mans circuit, site of the first-ever Grand Prix race in 1906 – won by Hungarian Ferenc Szisz in, appropriately, a Renault. The 1967 French Grand Prix was held on the short ‘Bugatti’ circuit and won by Jack Brabham in a Brabham-Repco.