After claiming back to back European Le Mans Series titles and finishing on the LM P2 podium at Le Mans in 2014, Alpine added a maiden world class endurance racing LM P2 prototype victory to its record today at China’s round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC!)
Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Tom Dillmann topped the LM P2 order at the 6 Hours of Shanghai in their Alpine A450b.
Signatech-Alpine is now up to fourth in the LM P2 Trophy ahead of the final clash of the 2015 championship in Bahrain on November 21.
After coming second in its class at last month’s 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan, Signatech-Alpine crossed the Sea of China intent on building on its performance as the 2015 FIA WEC moved on to Shanghai.
Much of the team’s free practice time was devoted to helping new boy Tom Dillmann find his marks and, with assistance from his new team-mates and everyone at Signatech-Alpine, the Alsace native lost no time familiarising himself with the niceties of driving an endurance racing prototype.
The early part of today’s 6 Hours of Shanghai (Sunday) was marked by heavy rain which made the conditions extremely difficult. The car qualified on the third row of the grid and Nelson Panciatici was nominated to take the start, although the first 14 minutes were spent behind the Safety Car. When the green light was finally shown, he succeeded in slipping straight into the rhythm of the front-runners and the Alpine A450b was sixth at the end of the Frenchman’s stint.
As the rain eased, Paul-Loup Chatin started to fight his way back up the order and, aided by a judicious strategy, eventually pitted in first place before handing over to endurance rookie Tom Dillmann.
The French youngster’s first race in the Alpine A450b saw him re-join in second spot. By this time, the racing line was dry and he lost no time recovering first place. Despite pressure from drivers with far more experience of the discipline, he was still in front at the chequered flag…
The team’s first success at FIA WEC level comes after European Le Mans Series titles in 2013 and 2014, plus a podium finish in the LM P2 class at Le Mans in 2014. It was also the Alpine brand’s first ever victory in China, home of the automobile industry’s number one market!
The final round of the championship will take place in Bahrain on Saturday, November 21.
Philippe Sinault (Team Principal, Signatech-Alpine): “Tom’s arrival in the team passed off very well, Nelson and Paul-Loup helped him a great deal as he did his best to find his feet in endurance racing. The team did a magnificent job all week. Nelson started the race on intermediate tyres and, despite running air pressures that were slightly too low, he managed to match the leaders’ pace and not make any mistakes. Paul-Loup then stayed out on intermediates and started to gain ground. The combination of his driving and our decision to pit during a Full Course Yellow enabled us to move up the leaderboard. Tom took over at the last possible moment in order for him to be able to go out on slicks on the drying track. The timing was perfect and he succeeded in putting in a surefooted run with no errors. This first victory for Alpine at world championship level is an important step for the brand. Our role is to carry on the great tradition of the Alpine name in racing and we are proud to have offered this win to all the Alpine fans out there.”
Nelson Panciatici: “The early part of the season was quite difficult, so today’s win is a huge result for us and a great way to pay back the efforts of everyone in the team. The first stint was pretty complex because the conditions were so delicate. The main thing was to keep the car in a strong position. We weren’t expecting to collect our first world championship victory but we are extremely proud of today’s result and of the work everyone has put in to be in a position to win here in China.”
Paul-Loup Chatin: “We did our best to make sure all the cards were stacked up in our favour for the race. Everything unfolded perfectly and the team did another outstanding job. I decided to stay on intermediate tyres even if it meant having to be really careful when the track was really wet, and we got the tyre pressures just right for my stint. This first WEC win for the team is an extraordinary result. To experience moments like this is why we go racing!”
Tom Dillmann: “I drove a prototype for the very first time on Friday! We knew the Alpine A450b could be competitive at Shanghai but the conditions weren’t easy. Everyone in the team did a fantastic job and I don’t think we were far off the perfect race. The team waited as long as it could before sending me out in the car so that I could go re-join on slicks. I soon found my marks and the team kept me informed all the way to help me manage my lead. I’m thrilled to have finish on the highest step of the podium, even though it still has to sink in that I have won my first FIA WEC race!”
6 Hours of Shanghai – final positions (LM P2)
1, Signatech-Alpine #36, 154 tours
2, G-Drive Racing #26, +1 lap
3, KCMG #47, +1 lap
4, Team Sard Morand #43, +2 laps
5, Pegasus Racing #29, +2 laps
6, Extreme Speed Motorsports #31, +7 laps
7, Strakka Racing #42, +10 laps
FIA LM P2 Trophy after seven rounds:
1, G-Drive #26, 153 points
2, KCMG #47, 137 points
3, G-Drive #28, 119 points
4, Signatech-Alpine #36, 73 points
5, Team Sard Morand #43, 62 points
6, Extreme Speed Motorsports #31, 58 points
7, Extreme Speed Motorsports #30, 56 points
8, Strakka Racing #42, 53 points
9, Oak Racing #35, 34 points