6 Hours of Fuji: Podium streak ends for Signatech Alpine Elf
Involved in an incident in the first hour, the Alpine A470 finishes off the podium for the first time since 2017.
Seventh at the flag, Thomas Laurent, André Negrão and Pierre Ragues were promoted to sixth after the race. The trio is now fourth in an extremely tight LMP2 general classification after the second round of the season.
Signatech Alpine Elf will be out for revenge at the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Shanghai on November 10.
A constant podium finisher at Fuji since 2015, the Signatech Alpine Elf team arrived in Japan with the goal of keeping the streak of spraying the champagne alive for the fifth successive year and for the 10th consecutive time in their category.
Following the first free practice session run on a drying track surface, Les Bleus spent the two next sessions looking for the perfect set-up. On the backfoot for qualifying, the Alpine A470 entrusted to André Negrão and Pierre Ragues qualified sixth in LMP2.
After the Japanese Alpine A110 owners’ parade on the Fuji Speedway, Pierre Ragues started the race with menacing skies above. The Sliver category driver soon charged into the top five before contact with a GT car in his second stint required a return to the pits.
After a six-minute stop to replace a broken rear suspension link, the crew returned to the action in last place with the bit between their teeth to reduce the gap of five laps to their rivals. Pushing hard, Thomas Laurent and André Negrão made up ground despite the first drops of rain at half-distance and several full course yellows.
With less than two hours remaining, Thomas Laurent was back in the car with seventh place in his sights. Thanks to the daring strategy of the team, the Frenchman kept a fast pace while also saving fuel to get the advantage over the n°47 Cetilar Racing entry 30 minutes from the chequered flag. Later in the evening, the Alpine A470 crew gained one more position as the n°38 JOTA has been disqualified after the race.
Thanks to these valuable championship points, the Signatech Alpine Elf team is now fourth in a hardly-fought general classification. Philippe Sinault’s team, however, will aim for a return to the podium at the next round, the 4 Hours of Shanghai on November 10.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Elf
We knew that someday our podium streak would come to an end and unfortunately it happened today. We never really found the right balance that is normally our strong suit. Qualifying confirmed that we were less at ease in the second sector, so we went back to a more familiar base for the race. Things were looking good after Pierre’s strong start, but the incident ruined our chances. It is always hard to say who is at fault in this type of situation. For the first time in a long while, the car returned to the garage during the race, but the team was extremely fast in changing the broken rear suspension link in just six minutes. We returned to the race in last place, but still motivated to go after seventh. André did a great job to make up time on a wet, tricky track, and we took a few risks in asking Thomas to save an enormous amount of fuel while maintaining a fast pace late in the race to overtake the Cetilar entry. This saw us pick up a position and although it may seem trivial, it is still two more points that could be decisive at the end of the season.
It wasn’t easy to deal with circumstances like these. Despite the incident, the team did an excellent job to repair the damage, as did Pierre and André on the track. I pushed just until the end even though there wasn’t very much to race for once we were five laps down. We had a good strategy and we now know we could save a lot of fuel in the race if required. Generally speaking, it was a race with its ups and downs, but we scored eight points that could make the difference at the end of the season.
We had a difficult weekend in Japan. We struggled to find a perfect set-up before having to deal with a car that was too low and under-steering in qualifying. We made adjustments in the race, but the contact with a GT car was extremely costly. We battled on just until the end of the race and the team did a fantastic job in the difficult conditions. The goal was to overtake the Cetilar car and we did so. This shows that we never give up and I am already looking forward to Shanghai to bounce back in the best possible way.
Despite a difficult start, my mistake in traffic during my second stint conditioned the rest of the race. I thought the Ferrari saw me, but he didn’t... I tried to be as reactive as possible in slowing down, but I couldn’t avoid the double contact that broke the rear steering rod. Although it is a part of racing, I am very disappointed for all of the team that did a great job on the track and in the pits. It is a hard pill to swallow and it is really frustrating for us, so the target will be to come back strong in Shanghai to forget this as fast as possible.”
6 Hours of Fuji – LMP2
1. Racing Team Nederland n°29 222 laps
2. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 + 1 lap
3. United Autosports n°22 + 2 laps
4. High Class Racing n°33 + 3 laps
5. Cool Racing n°42 + 3 laps
6. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 + 5 laps
7. Cetilar Racing n°33 + 6 laps
DSQ. JOTA n°38
FIA LMP2 Teams’ Trophy
1. Racing Team Nederland n°29 – 41 points
2. Cool Racing n°42 – 35 points
3. Jackie Chan DC Racing n°37 – 31 points
4. Signatech Alpine Elf n°36 – 26 points
5. High Class Racing n°33 – 18 points
6. United Autosports n°22 – 15 points
7. Cetilar Racing n°33 – 14 points
8. JOTA n°38 – 10 points