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Lapierre to skip 2023 WEC season as Alpine steps down to LMP2

Nicolas Lapierre is set to be absent from the World Endurance Championship grid for the first time since 2015 this year, following Alpine’s step down to LMP2.

#37 Cool Racing Oreca 07 - Gibson: Nicolas Lapierre

The 38-year-old has been a mainstay of the WEC since the series’ inception, initially as a Toyota driver in the top LMP1 class until he was dropped by the marque in mid-2014.

After a limited programme with the KCMG LMP2 team in 2015, which included his first of four Le Mans 24 Hours class wins, Lapierre joined the Signatech-run Alpine LMP2 outfit in 2016 and took that year's WEC class title after scooping a second Le Mans win.

With the exception of the 2019-20 campaign, when he spearheaded Cool Racing’s line-up in LMP2, Lapierre has raced for the squad in every campaign since and added a second WEC LMP2 title in 2018-19.

He stepped up to the Hypercar class with Alpine in 2021 and took the title down to the wire against Toyota last season, but will step back this year to devote more time to the running of Cool Racing after he became a director of the Swiss outfit in 2021. 

He hopes to return to the WEC in 2024 to drive Alpine’s new ORECA-derived LMDh prototype, which is expected to begin track testing later this year.

“This year I have a lot to do with my team Cool Racing, we are doing two LMP2 cars in ELMS and we hope to run two cars at Le Mans as well,” Lapierre told Autosport.

“For me this year, I will race in Asian Le Mans, European Le Mans Series and Le Mans. I am still in close contact with Alpine, I will take part in the development of the car when the LMDh is coming. That will keep me busy.”

Asked if he expected to be part of Alpine’s Hypercar line-up in 2024, he replied: “It’s still a bit early to speak about this, but that’s the plan for sure.”

Lapierre will focus on racing in the ELMS with Cool Racing this season

Lapierre will focus on racing in the ELMS with Cool Racing this season

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

Alpine is expected to announce the driver line-ups for its two LMP2 cars in the WEC early next week. So far, only Lapierre’s 2022 team-mates Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere have been confirmed to drive for the French squad.

Lapierre will share one of Cool’s LMP2 entries in the ELMS with rising star Malthe Jakobsen and bronze-rated Alexandre Coigny.

The second car will be driven by Toyota Hypercar ace Jose Maria Lopez, Euroformula Open runner-up Vlad Lomko and French teenager Reshad de Gerus.

Lapierre said recruiting 2021 Le Mans winner and two-time WEC champion Lopez was an important step for Cool as it expands to two cars in the top LMP2 class of the ELMS for the 2023 campaign.

“We were looking for a Pro driver for this car, we had a list of drivers and Jose was at the very top of the list,” he said of how Lopez came to join the team.

“I chatted to him and he is very passionate, he loves to race, so it was quite easy to reach an agreement with him. 

“I’ve known him for a long time and I know how competitive he is, but I also know he is a very good team player. That’s very important for us as we are a young team, so Jose was the perfect match and he is happy to do it as well. 

“It makes us proud also because we’ve only been running the team for two years and now we have a world champion and Le Mans winner joining us. He’ll be a good asset.”

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