Philippe Sinault: “It’s a key moment in the history of our sport”
Photo: WEC

Philippe Sinault: “It’s a key moment in the history of our sport”

Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal Philippe Sinault discusses the French team’s return in the LMP2 class. The Signatech founder also shares his impatience at competing in the premier Hypercar class from next year with its Alpine challenger.

Philippe Sinault fondly remembers his first entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans “like it was yesterday”. In 2009, his team, then-called Signature, fielded a Courage-Oreca LC70E entrusted to Pierre Ragues, Franck Mailleux and Didier André. The French trio finished a commendable 11th. “I remember being arrived through the track’s North Entry and felt my stomach getting all knotted up, like when I was taking an exam!”

Under the Signatech-Alpine banner, Philippe’s blue prototypes powered to three Le Mans wins in the highly-competitive LMP2 class (2016, 2018 and 2019). “It’s an achievement, a dream”, Philippe smiles. “Although it’s a ‘class’ win, it rewards all our team’s work for more than a year.” In 2021, he was awarded the Spirit of Le Mans, an accolade that honours the men and women who embody the spirit of endurance racing. “It was an immense pride to know that the organization of this legendary race sees me as a good ambassador, someone with this race’s values deeply ingrained in me”, underlines Philippe. “It gives you tremendous enthusiasm and a great deal of meaning to our commitment.”

After two seasons contested with the A480, a non-hybrid LMP1 allowed to compete in the Hypercar class, Alpine decided to return to LMP2. The French team move on both fronts with a two-car effort in FIA WEC and the development phase of the ready-for-2024 LMDh. “We showed courage when taking that decision because it’s an action-packed program”, Philippe observes. “It is the very reason why we have fielded two cars in LMP2, to prepare as best as possible for what will happen in 2024.”

The Alpine Elf Team Principal doesn’t hide the fact the start of the season is below the team’s ambitions. The Alpine No. 35 (Olli Caldwell - André Negrão - Memo Rojas) and the No. 36 (Julien Canal - Charles Milesi - Matthieu Vaxiviere) have never really been in a position to challenge for a class win.

“We manage to perform during the races, because we clocked twice the fastest lap for a LMP2 (thanks to Charles Milesi at Sebring et Spa)”, assesses Philippe. “But when it comes to setups and tyre knowledge, our opponents have already opened up a gap and it’s too late to catch up.” Philippe believes that Alpine have learnt the lessons from the three first rounds of FIA WEC and feels optimistic for Le Mans. “We hope we’ll get a bit more luck, because we haven’t been very lucky from the start. We are not lacking a great deal to get back in the fight. I think and sincerely hope it will happen at Le Mans. We owe to ourselves to secure a good result. We’d be very happy with a podium finish.”

After Le Mans, Alpine will turn their attention to the second half of the FIA WEC season and step up the development phase of their Hypercar. The Oreca-chassied Alpine Racing-powered French LMDh will take the track for the very first time this summer. “Our partners work like crazy and show amazing commitment. I take my hat off to them !” It will be the second time that Oreca will build a custom-made LMDH chassis. The French carmaker provided the chassis for the high-performance IMSA-competing Acura ARX-06. “It reinforces our belief we made the right choice”, adds Philippe. “It contains some form of logic relating to our long-standing partnership with Oreca. They know how to do it. They are ultra-qualified professionals.”

Next year, two blue-liveried Alpine will swell the ranks of an already packed Hypercar class. With Lamborghini and BMW expected to come to the fore, the FIA WEC pledges to offer unprecedented on-track entertainment. “It’s the first time a platform will host that many carmakers involved in a single championship, revels Philippe.

“It’s a key moment in the history of our sport. I feel privileged to take part in a championship with such commitment from the carmakers and such a sporting level. I look forward to joining the fray in 2024!”

Alpine Elf Team will be in action for next week's 24 Hours of Le Mans, round four of FIA WEC (10-11 June).

Interview by Bastien Cheval.