24 Heures du Mans - Results
- The Signatech Alpine Elf team finishes the 24 Hours of Le Mans just off the LMP2 podium.
- Despite a technical problem that cost them two laps at the start, André Negrão, Pierre Ragues and Thomas Laurent never gave up to make an amazing comeback up the order.
- Alpine now looks forward to its final race in LMP2 before moving up to the LMP1 class in the FIA World Endurance Championship next year.
With its revised format in the face of the health crisis, the 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans promised to be unique in more than one respect: a programme over just four days, a new qualifying format, a longer night...
The team was hard at work as early as Thursday to kick off its week in summer-like temperatures. After two free-practice sessions, Les Bleus switched their attention to qualifying where they posted the tenth best time at just 0.183s from a place in the Hyperpole session.
After two more free-practice sessions and the warm-up, which were used to fine-tune the very last details, the race started at 14h30. Behind the wheel of the n°36 Alpine A470, André Negrão intended to make one of his well-known deft starts, but the Brazilian returned to the pits at the end of the opening lap due to a leak.
The Signatech Alpine Elf mechanics made the repairs in just seven minutes, but André Negrão received a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line at the pit entry.
He went back out, a little more than two laps behind the leaders, but the drivers would work twice as hard. In 59th place after 10 minutes, André Negrão, Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues strung together a series of pushing stints and overtakes between the GT cars, then the LMP2 entries to rejoin the top 20 at the six-hour mark of the race.
Thanks to daring strategy adjustments while the safety car periods came in waves at dusk, the Philippe Sinault led team was back in the LMP2 category top ten at half-distance.
Far from throwing in the towel, the trio continued their comeback with triple stints in the middle of the longest Le Mans night since the race held in September of 1968 - the same in which Alpine won the Index of Thermal Efficiency Energy and Index of Performance with the A210.
Like is always the case at Le Mans, the hours in darkness catch out numerous competitors, including some of the team’s rivals in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Signatech Alpine Elf took advantage to accelerate its comeback while also optimizing the required driving time of each driver during the night and early morning.
Apart from a spin without consequences, the team put in a faultless performance on the track but also with its strategy and excellence during the pit-stops. All of this allowed the n°36 Alpine A470 to slot in just outside the overall top ten at dawn.
After the last stints of Pierre Ragues in the morning, the team was counting on the last five hours to push hard with André Negrão and Thomas Laurent. Both were doing double stints in a fascinating duel with n°39 Graff entry before it went off the track and led to the intervention of the safety car.
Charged with completing the crew's comeback, André Negrão also capitalised on the unexpected pit-stop of the n°26 G-Drive car to move up to fourth place and maintained the position after a splash-and-dash nine minutes from the chequers.
Signatech Alpine Elf thus concluded its Le Mans adventure in LMP2 just off the podium, but more importantly it tallied three victories (2016, 2018 and 2019) and two three places finishes (2014, 2017) before entering the LMP1 category next year.
The team will make its LMP2 swan song at the final round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain on Saturday November 14.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Elf
"The podium was both so close and so far. That's also why we all love this race. Anything can happen and the emotional rollercoaster is always there. For us, it began at the start with a combination of circumstances that caused an extremely rare technical issue as we think it was due to a contact at the first braking zone. We were able to stay calm by repairing it in seven minutes before maintaining our very aggressive strategy. The night was quite difficult but we got through the pitfalls and moved up fairly quickly. Le Mans then worked its magic in the last hour. This fourth place might leave us with some regrets, but the three cars in front didn't encounter any problems and that's the key here. Le Mans decided that we were destined for fourth place. I am also very proud of the way we forged our result and performance this year. We proved that we were ready, that we were not giving up and that strategy was really our area of focus, especially at Le Mans. We can't wait to come back!”
"I see this fourth place as another win at Le Mans. After the problem we encountered at the start of the race, we really went for this result to prove all the qualities of our team. The car was incredible and we had the same pace as the three crews on the podium. Alas, Le Mans is sometimes like that, but we can be proud of the work done by everyone both during the day and at night.”
"We really have nothing to be ashamed of. We played our best strategy once we solved the problem at the start. We finished just off the podium with the race incidents in this crazy last hour and this shows once again that you always have to count on the team and that no one ever gives up. It is really impressive and it makes you even more proud to be part of it.”
"It was a very positive race where the performance was on point. The issue André had at the start is a shame because the podium was really within our reach. The mechanics gave the best of themselves during all the pit stops, the engineers were spot on, making the right decisions at the right times. There are many positive points to remember from this fourth place and it is up to us to do our best to finish the season in style in Bahrain!”
24 Hours of Le Mans – LMP2
1. United Autosports n°22 370 laps
2. JOTA n°38 +32.831s
3. Panis Racing n°31 + 2 laps
4. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 +3 laps
5. G-Drive Racing n°26 + 3 laps
6. IDEC Sport n°28 + 4 laps
7. Cool Racing n°42 + 5 laps
8. Algarve Pro Racing n°25 + 5 laps
9. Richard Mille Racing Team n°50 + 6 laps
10. Cetilar Racing n°47 + 7 laps
FIA LMP2 Teams Trophy
1. United Autosports n°22 – 171 points
2. JOTA n°38 – 125 points
3. Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 107 points
4. Cool Racing n°42 – 103 points
5. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 98 points
6. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 – 94 points
7. Cetilar Racing n°33 – 60 points
8. High Class Racing n°33 – 47 points