Building on the performance displayed in Mexico, André Negrão and Nicolas Lapierre claimed a second consecutive pole position in the no.36 Alpine A470. Men and machines were already being sorely tested, as air temperatures peaked at around 35°C.
It was still very hot in Austin when the race started on Saturday lunchtime. Behind the four LMP1-Hs, Nicolas Lapierre led the LMP2 field at the start. The Alpine A470 driver wasted no time, pushing hard to move clear of his rivals.
At the end of the opening stint, Gustavo Menezes replaced Nicolas behind the wheel. Overtaken by Nelson Piquet (no.13) and Alex Brundle (no.37), he reclaimed second place after an error from the Brazilian.
It was then André Negrão’s turn to tackle the blazing Texan heat. Looking especially sharp, he chased down Brundle before then grabbing the lead! The Brazilian’s superb effort was backed up by Nicolas Lapierre, who returned in the car after just over two hours of the race. Once again, the French driver was in irresistible form, building up a lead of more than 40 seconds over their nearest challengers.
All their good work, however, was then wiped out: with three hours gone, just after Gustavo Menezes had taken over driving duties, a safety car period meant the entire field became bunched up.
Highly motivated to put on a good performance in front of his home fans, Gustavo wasted no time in re-establishing a healthy lead once normal racing resumed. Following the third and final stint completed by Nicolas, André took over behind the wheel of the Signatech Alpine Matmut with a lead of over 50 seconds!
Like last year, Gustavo had the honour of driving to the end and crossing the finishing line. The final stint was not all plain sailing for the Californian, however. He had to push to be able to come in for a ‘splash and dash’ pit stop, during which the rear hood was replaced to repair a faulty rear light.
Despite a bit of moment in the traffic on the penultimate lap, the no.36 Alpine crossed the finishing line first, a lap ahead of the second-placed car!
After finishing in third place at the Nürburgring and second in Mexico, Signatech Alpine Matmut therefore racked up its first race win of the season. In the last three races, the no.36 crew is the one that has scored the most points in LMP2. In the overall standings, the gaps have narrowed: Signatech Alpine Matmut is now only 8 points behind the second place and trail the leaders by just 28!
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is due to be contested on the other side of the Pacific Ocean: the 6 Hours of Fuji (Japan) will be held on 15 October.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director
“In Austin, Alpine achieved a perfect weekend with pole position, victory and lap record. We had hoped that this race would be a turning point in our season and I think that’s exactly what it has been. The team managed to find the right set-up and adopt an aggressive strategy to go after this first win of the season. All three drivers managed to make the most of the package we provided them with and they showed plenty of panache to overtake their rivals and build up a lead. The Alpine A470 seems to have got up to speed now and we’re determined to pick up in Asia where we have left off here, and defend our title to the very end!”
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
“We had chosen to apply a similar strategy to the one that worked in 2016. By using hard tyres, we accepted that we would have a little bit less speed on one lap, but felt that this approach would pay off over the entire race. On the first stint, we saw that we were quicker than our rivals, who had to manage tyre degradation. With the safety car period, the gap was wiped out, but we knew that we could build up a lead again. It could still have all gone wrong on the final pit stop, with the hood change imposed by the stewards. It’s by no means a trivial operation, but the guys did a great job. Our goal was to win the race and that’s exactly what we did. We’re going to keep fighting right to the end of the season!”
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 car
“I’m pleased for the entire Signatech Alpine Matmut team! We had the pace to win very comfortably. A few events and racing incidents made our job a little bit more complicated, but no one panicked and we managed to secure this long-awaited victory. It’s an important point, and something we have been after since the start of the season. It’s also a good result in terms of the championship standings.”
“It was a great race – we managed our strategy perfectly. It was difficult to accept losing our forty-second lead when the safety car came out, but we managed to pull clear again shortly afterwards. André and Nico then did a great job. My final stint wasn’t easy, as I had to push in order to compensate for the time lost changing the rear hood. But I must admit it wasn’t that difficult, either, because the car was really fantastic to drive. Congratulations to everyone, I’m very proud to win here at my home race in the United States!”
“We did it! All the members of the team really deserve this win and I’m very pleased to have played my part. I’m already looking ahead to Japan, because we have started to come back in the overall standings and I think we have the potential to keep it up until the end of the season.”
6 Hours of COTA – LMP2
1. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 177 laps
2. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 +1 lap
3. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 +3.775
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 +1.985
5. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 +1 lap
6. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 +25.144
7. TDS Racing no.28 +1 lap
8. G-Drive Racing no.26 +6 laps
FIA Endurance LMP2 “Teams” Trophy
1. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 130 points
2. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 110 points
3. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 – 102 points
4. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 – 69 points
5. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 – 63 points
6. G-Drive Racing no.26 – 62 points
7. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 – 54 points
8. TDS Racing no.28 – 33 points
9. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 – 20 points