Thursday, November 14, 2019


This week, petrolheads all over the world are thrilled enough about the premiere of the FORD v FERRARI film (Le Mans '66 in the UK) describing the story of Ford vs Ferrari adventure in endurance racing back in 60ies. Here at Équipe Gordini, we are equally excited, and we would also like to remember the story of Alpine Renault of that period.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in FORD v FERRARI, based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

For those who do not know, in the same race, Alpine made an 1-2-3 in the energy efficiency index, with speeds of up to 270 km/h using a 1.3-litre Renault-Gordini engine.

The Alpine Campaign

Alpine made its debut in prototypes, in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1963, under the management of José Rosinski. Here, Alpine demonstrated its originality by targeting performance and efficiency rather than outright victory. With their small, 1000 cc or 1300 cc Gordini engines, the cars were able to defeat their rivals thanks particularly to their carefully honed aerodynamics. In 1964, Henry Morrogh and Roger Delageneste won their class at Le Mans in an 1100 cc M64.

In 1966, there was a second victory for fuel efficiency with the A210 of Cheinisse/Delageneste, but it was above all a group success as the four Alpine prototypes that finished the race covered a total of more than 4,000 km – a feat that no French car had ever accomplished before either at Le Mans, or elsewhere.

In 1968, Alpine presented an A220 equipped with a 3.0-litre Gordini V8 engine. However, vibration issues meant it was unreliable and after another failure in 1969, a curtain was drawn over the prototype initiative. It was revived in 1973 with the two-litre, V6 A440, and the programme reached its crowning glory with the historic victory of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi in an Alpine Renault A442B in the 1978 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The duo triumphed outright, whilst rally pairing Ragnotti/Fréquelin piloted a second A442 to fourth place.

No. 62 Alpine A210 of Henri Grandsire (F)/Leo Cella (I)

No. 46 Alpine A210 of Jean Vinatier (F)/Mauro Bianchi (B)

Renault at Le Mans Timeline

1949: For the first time in history, a private Renault 4CV participates in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

1951-1952: In 1951, five official 4CVs and one private one competed. One of them won the category for engines under 750 cc, setting a new record for its class: an average speed of 111.198 km/h. The following year, six R1063 sedans (a sport version of the 4CV), were entered into the competition, one of which was driven by Jean Rédélé, the future founder of the Alpine brand.

1953-1958: Renault continues to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours with various official and private 4CVs: these cars include the VP (Vernet Pairard) tank and the R1064. For the following editions, the automaker proposes new cars and makes profound changes to the R1063, but with no visible success.

1962-1963: The "Spider" and "Djet" from the manufacturer René Bonnet are equipped with the Gordini R8, type 55 engine. In the 1963 race, its "Aérodjet" N53 finishes first in the energy index.

1963-1964: Three Alpine M63 prototypes, entered in the competition by Jean Rédélé, demonstrate their full potential. In 1964, the M64 is introduced and gives Alpine its first success at Le Mans, with a victory in the energy index. The same year, an M63 wins the energy index title in the 1150 cc category.

1965-1969: The M65, type 58, fitted with a 1300 cc Renault Gordini becomes the first 1300-engine to pass the 200 km/h lap speed mark. In 1966 and 1968, it takes the top prize in the energy index. In 1968 and 1969, the M65 celebrates two other victories in the performance index with the 1005 cc engine.
In 1967, the Alpine A210 1500 beats the record of a four-minute lap. In the race, it wins the 1600 cc category with Vinatier and Bianchi. The following year, it repeats its performance with Serpaggi and Le Guellec. The fuel-injected 1500 cc engine will eventually reach 160 HP, in 1969.

1973-1975: The "2 liter" championship series in 1974 is dominated by the Alpine A440 with a V6 engine: 7 races, 7 victories, the title and 3 Renault drivers in the first three slots with Serpaggi, Larrousse and Jabouille.
In 1975, the A441 and the A441T make their debuts. The former, driven by two women – Lella Lombardi and Marie-Claude Beaumont – shows promising results. The latter wins a handsome prize in its first showing.

1976-1977: The Alpine A442, running the V6 turbo engine, posts the best time in the trials for the 1976 Le Mans 24 Hours. The next year, three official and one private A442 are on the starting line.

1978: Perfectly prepared by different tests and boasting a few innovations, including the "bubble", the three Alpine Renault A442s and the A443 - the longer version-dominate throughout the race, never letting their competitors get a look at the lead. The much awaited victory is finally achieved.

Source: Groupe Renault &