After several months of behind-the-scenes research and design, Alpine's Endurance project took on the track for the first time.
After the A424's first fire-up on the trestle and the first simulator sessions in July, the Hypercar made its very first low-speed run at the beginning of August in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre. The French driver got behind the wheel again on Monday for a shakedown at Le Castellet Airport to check that the safety functions were operational.
The following day, the groundwork began on the 5.8 km track with a series of short runs to get to grips with the prototype and begin operational work on the car's main components, including the gearbox, brakes and cooling system, a crucial subject amid a particularly severe heatwave in France. Meanwhile, the single-turbo 3.4-litre V6 engine developed at Viry-Châtillon also received particular attention with an emphasis on mapping.
On a track that wasn't open until late Wednesday afternoon, the merits of the changes implemented since the previous day were validated, particularly with software and mapping.
During the final day, the runs were progressively lengthened, which allowed for the gathering of valuable data and a good understanding of the Michelin tyres. Thursday ended with a stint of around 30 laps and a total of over 700 km.
The Alpine A424 covered just over 1,000 kilometres without significant issues, allowing the team to learn as much as it could and gather a tremendous amount of data, which is now being put to good use.
This productive week also saw three drivers from the current Alpine-Signatech team take turns behind the wheel: Nicolas Lapierre (Monday and Tuesday), Matthieu Vaxiviere (Wednesday and Thursday) and Charles Milesi (Thursday).
Alpine will continue the development of the A424 on track with further sessions scheduled for next month at Motorland Aragón.
Bruno Famin, VP Alpine Motorsports: "This first session is the culmination of months of work by the Alpine Racing teams and our partners. Our initial assessment is satisfactory, with a fairly high mileage that has enabled us to conduct our programme step by step. In these early stages of development, the priorities are to validate the fundamental systems and work on reliability whilst beginning to fine-tune the prototype. The drivers were fairly happy with the car, although there were some difficult points, which we are already working on in preparation for the next tests. But we have to be realistic: the work has only just begun. We still have a huge amount of work to do in an extremely short timespan before our first race."
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Endurance Team Principal: "For the first time in our history, we have the opportunity to be involved in such a large-scale project right from the start. Seeing the A424 take to the track for the first time was a real thrill. This project also brings its share of challenges, as the Alpine Racing teams and our own are working together to get the most out of the Alpine A424. The first overall impression is rather positive, and the absence of blocking problems since the first laps has enabled us to get to know the car fairly quickly. Our knowledge of the car will grow as the development tests continue. The next six months will certainly be intense until our first race in Qatar, but everyone in the team is more than motivated to rise to the challenge."