Immediately after unveiling its cars and crews for 2017 at the start of the week in Boulogne-Billancourt, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team set off for Monza. The track located on the outskirts of Milan was the venue for two days of mandatory pre-season testing for the teams and drivers taking part in the FIA WEC.
On the first day, the no.36 Alpine A470 crew – consisting of Romain Dumas, Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao – wasted no time in kicking off their weekend’s test programme aimed at assessing set-up options and tyre use. During the afternoon session, Gustavo Menezes set the fastest lap time in the LMP2 category, with a 1:37.020.
Saturday was also a very busy day in the no.35 car’s pit garage. The second car was making its first track outing at Monza and a good part of the day was devoted to find the right driving position for Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues and André Negrão.
In the evening, the competitors had the chance to complete some laps in the night session. Rain fell shortly after the session started, dissuading several competitors from taking to the track, but the six Alpine drivers nonetheless completed one run each.
The track was still damp early on Sunday morning. The racing line dried out quickly, however, and the hunt for fast times resumed. Romain Dumas produced a fine performance to record the third fastest speed of the weekend. At 314kph, the Alpine A470 was only beaten by the Porsche LMP1-Hs!
After the five sessions, the no.35 Signatech Alpine Matmut set the fifth best time, with a lap of 1:36.559 recorded by Nelson Panciatici. In the no.36, Romain Dumas set the car’s leading time with a 1:36.814.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director: “Well done to the Signatech Alpine Matmut team, which put out two magnificent A470s for this FIA WEC prologue. In the daytime and at night, in the dry and the wet, our drivers were able to test themselves in all conditions on what is very much a “high speed” track. We’ll have learned a lot of useful information this weekend, especially for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As we suspected, the standard in LMP2 is higher again and the category is even closer than in 2016. We are more confident than ever in the strength of our line-up and our capacity to defend our world titles with panache. We can’t wait for the season to start in two weeks’ time at Silverstone.”
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal: “It wasn’t an easy weekend for the team. We had a few minor technical hitches, which is to be expected with new cars. You can see just how close it is in the category, with ten cars regularly lapping within a second of each other and six LMP2s capable of setting the fastest lap time. We are pleased with the work done by our drivers, especially those who are new to the team this year. Despite the disruptions caused by our brake issues, Romain Dumas remained positive throughout and communicated well with the team. Matt Rao was quick, both in dry and wet conditions. As regards André Negrão, he showed that what he has learned competing in high-level single-seater racing will help him to acclimatise quickly to endurance. It was no surprise, of course, to see fine work from Nelson Panciatici, Gustavo Menezes and Pierre Ragues, who we already know very well! After 2,400km of testing, the team can now turn its attention to working on preparations for the 6 Hours of Silverstone.”
SIGNATECH ALPINE MATMUT No.36 CAR
Romain Dumas: “These two days have given me the opportunity to really get to know the car, the technical team and my team-mates. It’s been a good start, although the brake issues did cost some running time. The team nonetheless proved its ability to react quickly to correct this problem and that gives me confidence. It was only on my last run that I was able to push hard and I really enjoyed myself. That shows that the Alpine A470 has a solid base. We just have to keep working!”
Gustavo Menezes: “The two days of testing were pretty positive. This was the first time that Romain, Matt and I have worked together and we quickly established a good understanding. I think we made good progress, although it’s difficult to tell with the times because not everyone has the same conditions at test days like these. The performance gap between last year’s Alpine A460 and our new A470 is huge. The car has improved in all areas and it is so much quicker. I can’t wait to get to Silverstone.”
Matt Rao: “It was a bit of a disappointing way to end the weekend. I was on slicks and the rain started to get heavier and heavier. I got caught out at Lesmo and slid off into the barriers. Fortunately, the damage seems to be fairly minimal and it shouldn’t take away from the good work done this weekend. We showed a good level of performance in the LMP2 category, which looks like it’s going to be even closer than ever. With the 600bhp engine and the new aerodynamics, the Alpine A470 is a beast to drive!”
SIGNATECH ALPINE MATMUT No.35 CAR
Nelson Panciatici: “The weekend went very well. We took the time to work properly on the driving position before pushing a bit harder today (Sunday). But since this was our first track outing in the car, we weren’t focusing on setting fast times as much as the other crews. The conditions enabled us to test in the rain and at night, which I’m sure will come in handy at some stage!”
Pierre Ragues: “It’s great to be back with this team. There are a few new faces, because the outfit has become even more professional in my absence, but the spirit is just the same. As for the car, it was very different to what I experienced until 2015. Our engineer did everything possible to put us at ease and give us confidence. We managed to rack up quite a lot of kilometres and I really enjoyed completing an entire stint with a full tank of petrol. Everything is okay, all systems are go!”
André Negrão: “We made a good start to our working relationship. Personally speaking, as an endurance rookie, it was pretty good to have to deal with all the track conditions. There are a lot of settings you can adjust on the steering wheel, with the traction control, accelerator and fuel injection mapping, etc. I also need to learn about managing tyre wear as well. It’s all very different to single-seater racing! After these two days of testing, I have a clearer idea of the work I need to do in order to be totally ready for my first race.”