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Contested on Saturday evening, the ninth and final round of the 2016 FIA #wec saw #nicolaslapierre, Stéphane Richelmi and #gustavomenezes finish on the podium for the seventh time this season. This was no title decider, of course, since the no.36 Signatech-Alpine crew had already wrapped up the championship after the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
On Sunday, the team was hard at work again during the day devoted to rookie tests. In the Alpine pit, talented youngster Thomas Laurent finally had his chance to drive the Alpine A460. A keen observer of the team at work all weekend, the 2015 Karting World Champion made good progress throughout the day.
Meanwhile, in recognition of their performances with Alpine, #gustavomenezes and #paulloupchatin also caught the eye on their first outing in factory LMP1 cars. Among the rookies, Gustavo set the fastest lap, just ahead of Paul-Loup.
With the day's action completed, the extended FIA #wec family gathered in the evening for the end-of-season prize-giving ceremony. Against the backdrop of the Arabian Gulf, the LMP2 category winners came up on stage to receive their world championship trophies!
The 2016 season has drawn to a close, but the winter break will not last long at Alpine. They now have titles to defend...
Michael Van der Sande, Managing Director of Alpine:
"The fantastic success achieved this year on the track forms a priceless foundation in terms of positioning Alpine and its sporting values! Our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the Signatech-Alpine team, and to the drivers, for having fired the arrowed 'A' to such great heights."
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director:
"This season has enabled us to take our participation in motorsport, begun in 2013, to a new level. At the outset of our partnership with Signatech, we started from scratch. We have now won the lot, with victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the world endurance championship title in the LMP2 category. 2016 was also a key year for the new Alpine road car project and so we needed to have bold sporting ambitions to support the commercial launch of the car. We really wanted to win and we did it! Everyone who has contributed to writing this new page in the history of Alpine deserves their share of the success. There has been the same winning attitude, panache and spirit of human adventure that has always inspired Alpine. This openness to the values that drive all those involved with the Alpine brand will be hard-coded in the DNA of our new car."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal:
"I would never have believed that we could have a season like this. In fact, I think it will be difficult for us to match our achievements! It's just rewards for all the work done and the commitment shown by every member of the team. There has been a genuine 'blue' dynamic in the team and this project has pushed us further and further. Personally speaking, obviously what I will remember most is our win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – it was also my birthday – and the congratulations from Dr. Ullrich, a Le Mans legend, as he withdrew from motorsport with an incredible record. As well as our exploits this season, we mustn't forget that we have now won three titles in four years! And I'm convinced that there is more to come in the future."
"It was a fantastic season because we achieved both our goals: win the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the world title at the end of the season. Quite simply, we couldn't have done any better. For me, it was a good start to my working relationship with Alpine!"
"I'm very proud to win the first title of my career with a brand as prestigious as Alpine! I don't think that the scale of our achievement has sunk in as yet. We move forward with the team every day, step by step, but we what have achieved with Alpine will go down in the history books."
"I have really enjoyed this first season in Endurance #racing. I was welcomed with open arms by the team and I have immersed myself in French culture. It's an honour to secure this title for Alpine and I'm proud to have been part of the adventure this season."
HIGHLIGHTS OF A SEASON PACKED WITH PANACHE
17 April – 6 Hours of Silverstone
For the Alpine A460's first race, the team had a lot to learn, especially when it came to managing tyres on a wet track. In the race itself, the Signatech-Alpine made it up to third position, but a puncture cost the car a place and it finished just shy of the podium places.
7 May – #wec 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Full of incidents and action, the Belgian round of the FIA #wec was decided only in the final hour. After losing his lead behind the safety car, #nicolaslapierre had to come into the pits for more fuel. He rejoined in second place but quickly regained the lead after pulling off a bold overtaking move to get past Derani! The Alpine A460 claimed its first win.
18-19 June – 24 Hours of Le Mans
Lapierre, Richelmi and Menezes produced a perfect performance to beat 22 very tough competitors, laying the foundations for the win overnight. The team reacted quickly to on-track events, thinking on its feet to adapt its strategy. This enabled the no.36 Alpine A460 to move clear in the early hours of the morning. After covering some 4,864.86km, the car crossed the finishing line first in its category and fifth overall, equalling the best ever result of an LMP2 at Le Mans. It is also worth noting that this result was achieved with two Le Mans "rookies" in the crew.
24 July – 6 Hours of the Nürburgring
There was no question of the team resting on its laurels after the win at Le Mans! In Germany, the Signatech-Alpine crew secured its third consecutive race win. In the lead at the halfway stage, #gustavomenezes managed the various safety car periods perfectly, leaving #nicolaslapierre to finish the job in relaxed fashion!
3 September – 6 Hours of Mexico
With the European season over, the FIA #wec headed for the Americas. In front of wildly enthusiastic fans, the Signatech-Alpine took the lead halfway through the race. The appearance of rain made no change to the standings, but then the no.36 lost the lead after being given a drive-through penalty. #nicolaslapierre attempted to fight back in the closing laps and crossed the finishing line less than two seconds behind the winners!
17 September – 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
For the first time this season, Alpine claimed pole position. Contested in stiflingly hot conditions, this race turned the drivers into genuine slaves to the track. Stéphane Richelmi proved to be the most adept at this exercise, managing to complete a double stint. This decisive phase enabled the no.36 to build up a one-lap lead. At his home #event, #gustavomenezes had the honour of crossing the finishing line as the winner!
16 October – 6 Hours of Fuji
Aiming to make one fewer pit stop than their rivals over the course of the race, the Signatech-Alpine went for a different strategy. At the end of the first stint, #nicolaslapierre handed over driving duties to Stéphane Richelmi. Following the double stint of #gustavomenezes, Lapierre got back behind the wheel for the closing stages of the race. In touch with the leaders right to the end, he took the chequered flag in third position.
6 November – 6 Hours of Shanghai
Nicolas Lapierre led at the start. However, he had to manage his tyres and relinquished the lead with half an hour gone. In incredibly hot conditions, #gustavomenezes had to continue on hard tyres. When running third, the American was shunted into a spin, but he was able to keep #racing. Following two good stints by Stéphane Richelmi, #nicolaslapierre took over behind the wheel until the finish. Matching the pace of his rivals, he finished fourth to collect the points needed to win the title!
19 November – 6 Hours of Bahrain
After securing the team's second pole position of the season, the Signatech-Alpine made a perfect start to the race. #gustavomenezes dominated his rivals and built up a small lead. However, on Nicolas Lapierre's first stint, the car's performance dropped off suddenly. The situation did not improve when Stéphane Richelmi took over driving duties. On the final stint, #nicolaslapierre managed to claim the team's seventh podium of the season.
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