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How Alpine is preparing its new LMDh car for 2024 WEC season

Alpine has put together an extensive testing programme for its new LMDh challenger ahead of its return to the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar class next year.

Alpine A424 Beta

When the French manufacturer first decided to enter the WEC’s top class in 2021, with the Signatech team that had represented it with great success in LMP2, it did so in little time by obtaining the Rebellion R-13 LMP1 car from its previous owner and promptly rebranding it as an Alpine A480.

It gave Alpine a relatively easy entry into the top echelon of sportscar racing, and there were wins at Sebring and Monza against stiff competition from Toyota. But running a generation-old LMP1 car was always a stop-gap measure and required a special dispensation from the rulemakers.

The Renault-owned brand has now put together a bona fide car for the Hypercar class while Signatech has spent 2023 back racing in LMP2.

Christened the Alpine A424, the ORECA-based LMDh challenger was unveiled to the world at the eve of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, and marks the Renault group’s first proper attempt at winning the French endurance classic since 1978. The A424 is slated to make its debut at the 2024 season opener in Qatar in March, leaving Alpine with only five months to make sure it is in race-ready condition.

PLUS: Alpine's new attempt to scale Le Mans heights

Not long after the car’s public reveal three months ago, Alpine engineers went into overdrive, with work beginning on integrating its 3.4-litre turbocharged Mecachrome V6 engine into the A424 chassis. The hybrid motor was ready to be fired up for the first time on 5 July and just under a month later, on 2 August, Alpine was able to shake down its new LMDh car on track.

The next major milestone in the development of the A424 was reached at the end of August, when Alpine completed a first full-fledged test at Paul Ricard. Following an initial straightline at the adjacent airport, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Charles Milesi put the A424 through its paces for three consecutive days at the former French Grand Prix venue, accumulating over 1000km of data.

The test was labelled a success, marking the culmination of months of hard work to ensure the car was ready to be put on track.

“It was a great test,” Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault told Autosport. “We are so proud to make the first run with the car. “At the end it was okay and we are really happy about the job done in the first days. It was just like a big shakedown. 

Alpine A424 Beta

Alpine A424 Beta

Photo by: Alpine

“We started to work but initially the plan was to check if every function was great or was okay. The target was also to run longer and longer. And the priority as you can imagine was the reliability at Le Mans.” 

Sinault described the reliability of the car at this stage of the same development programme as “okay“, before adding that there were “some little topics but nothing huge and critical”.

The few niggles it encountered over the course of the test were not limited to components it designed and built on its own, but also to the spec hybrid system sourced from Bosch, Xtrac and Williams Advanced Engineering.

Insight: Inside the spec hybrid spine of LMDh cars

“It was a combination of each, but there are details sometimes. It's just about details, there's nothing huge,” said Sinault.

Alpine has since completed a second test in Spain in September and more running is planned in Europe until the end of December, with visits to Jerez and Portimao lined up.

Alpine isn’t putting a number on how many tests it plans to undertake, with Sinault saying “we have a planned few day until December, but if we have an opportunity window it could be open to organising more tests”. There is also no set target on how many miles Alpine wants on the car before heading to Qatar.

Alpine has to plan its testing programme around the homologation window. It has until December to send its car to both Sauber and Windshear wind tunnels to get the car homologated for both WEC and IMSA, even though Alpine has no plans to race in the North American series.

“We have to manage the homologation and the test, it's not easy,” explained Sinault. “It's the main point. 

Alpine A424 Beta

Alpine A424 Beta

Photo by: Alpine

“We plan to run and make some tests in the next few weeks in the south of Europe, the maximum we can because the limit of homologation is at the end of this year. 

“And at the same time, you have to manage the wind tunnel; the mandatory filter of homologation is to go in the wind tunnel.

“We have to manage. It will be tight but we plan and we anticipate all these stages so we are okay.”

Both tests held so far were concluded with a single car, but Alpine will double down on car development when it introduces a second chassis “at the end of the global test programme”.

Alpine will join an expanded Hypercar class field in 2024, with BMW and Lamborghini also making an entry to join incumbents Toyota, Porsche, Cadillac and Ferrari. Several smaller manufacturers like Isotta Fraschini and possibly Vanwall will also be on the grid, although Glickenhaus’ future in the series is in serious doubt.

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Sinault is under illusion about the scale of challenge ahead for Alpine. While the company's bosses has high aspirations from its LMDh programme, Sinault knows it is best to temper expectations for the programme's first year.

“The first target is to make the maximum,” he said. “We will be there. The ambition of the brand is high. So we will try to be in accordance with the ambition and the result expected by the brand. 

“It will be a first year. We have one year less compared with the others but we will be pushing to be a match.”

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