Alpine rues "incredibly frustrating" Le Mans gremlins

Alpine has explained the "incredibly frustrating" technical gremlins that have all but ended its Le Mans 24 Hours victory challenge with its Hypercar entry eight laps down after eight hours.

#36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson LMP1 of André Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

The French marque's solo grandfathered A480-Gibson LMP1 car was already struggling to keep up the pace of the Toyota and Glickenhaus Le Mans Hypercars when Nicolas Lapierre was hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding in a slow zone in the fourth hour.

Further time was lost soon after as the car was taken into the garage to replace the electronic clutch unit, costing the Signatech-run team 13 minutes, before another 11 minutes were given up in the fifth hour due to a fault with the ignition coil.

That meant the car shared by Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao was circulating 28th overall, eight laps off the pace, when the race reached one-third distance at midnight local time.

Alpine's chances had also taken a hit pre-race courtesy of a late Balance of Performance change issued on Friday that robbed the A480 of vital horsepower, which Philippe Sinault also cited as a factor for the team's struggles.

"The race promised to be difficult, and it has been for several reasons," said Sinault. "First of all due to a lack of top speed, which put us in difficulty in traffic.

"We were behind even though we were able to challenge the Glickenhaus when we could take advantage of clear laps.

"There was some confusion when the race director's radio broke when we entered the slow zone. Nicolas slowed down, but we were accused of speeding and had to respect this penalty as the time limit for contesting it had almost passed.

"Lastly, our two problems with the electronic clutch control unit and the coil are incredibly frustrating as they have never been an issue before. The start to the race has been tough for us, but we are still here."

#36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson LMP1 of André Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

#36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson LMP1 of André Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Photo by: Nick Dungan / Motorsport Images

Lapierre described his penalty for speeding in a slow zone as "a bit harsh" as he claimed not to have seen any signals from the marshals.

"It was anything but an easy start to the race," said the four-time LMP2 class winner at Le Mans.

"The start was difficult because of our lack of power and top speed compared to the competition, but so was traffic management for the same reasons.

"There was a bit of confusion in the slow zone, and I didn't see any signs. So we got a drive-through which I thought was a bit harsh before our technical problems, but we're not going to give up." 

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