Alpine's Monza win "really important" for WEC title hopes

Nicolas Lapierre says Alpine’s win in the 6 Hours of Monza is “really important” for its World Endurance Championship title bid, as the French outfit stretched its points lead.

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

Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao’s second win of the WEC season, following their victory in the Sebring season-opener, means they now lead the way by 10 points with just two rounds left this season at Fuji and Bahrain.

It followed a disastrous Le Mans 24 Hours for the Signatech-run Alpine team, as its A480-Gibson grandfathered LMP1 car struggled for performance following a series of Balance of Performance changes and suffered reliability issues.

Lapierre, Vaxiviere and Negrao were classified fifth in the Hypercar division but claimed the points for fourth as the better-placed Glickenhaus, which took the bottom step of the podium behind Toyota’s pair of GR010 HYBRIDs, was an extra car not entered for WEC points.

Analysis: How Glickenhaus implosion helped Alpine to Monza glory on Peugeot's debut

Speaking after prevailing over Toyota at Monza, Lapierre said: “Second victory of the year, which is great, and really important after the difficult Le Mans we had.

“We knew this race was important because we know the next race at Fuji is not going to be easy for us.

“It’s Toyota’s home soil so we will have to fight hard there. But the car is working well and the team is performing a great level and it’s a great challenge for us.”

Alpine took victory at Monza after surviving a penultimate-hour clash with the #7 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi.

Vaxiviere, who was at the wheel of the A480 at the time, said the aggression of both Kobayashi and Ryo Hirakawa in the #8 Toyota he'd passed before closing on Kobayashi went “a bit too far”.

“I had two, three laps [racing] with the [#8] car on the straight, there was some move that was a bit dangerous to be honest,” reflected Vaxiviere.

Podium: Race winner #36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Podium: Race winner #36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“Then on the last one [with the #7], when we had the contact, I was on the inside and I decided not to change my line. I couldn’t do anything about that.

“Luckily we still finished well and we didn’t have a problem with the car, it’s part of racing.

“At the end we like fair battles. That was a bit too far, but I still enjoy racing Toyota.”

Despite another BoP adjustment in the lead-up to Monza that gave the Alpine an additional 11kW (15bhp), the Gibson-engined car still struggled to match the heavier, more powerful Toyota LMHs on the straights at Monza.

Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault said the team was able to make up for this built-in disadvantage by executing its strategy to perfection in a race peppered with full-course yellow periods and punctuated by a mid-race safety car.

“It was going to be a challenging race as the technical specifications of our prototypes are very different,” remarked Sinault. 

“We knew it would be difficult to overtake our rivals on the straights, so we worked hard on all aspects of strategy: undercuts, full course yellow, tyre management and fuel consumption. We achieved this result step by step from our first laps on Friday.

“The entire team got its act together after Le Mans to put in a flawless performance, as did the drivers with some incredible, even magical moves. All of us can be very proud.”

While Alpine leads the drivers' standings, Toyota maintains the advantage in the manufacturers' race by 15 points - as it can count its best finish from either of its two cars for each race.

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