Signatech-Alpine had vowed to fight for victory in the 2014 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) season finale at Estoril in Portugal. Although second place would have sufficed to secure another crown regardless of the results of its rivals, the French outfit nonetheless approached this decisive outing just like any other.
Similarly, as it has done on every occasion since May, the Alpine A450b underlined its ability to compete right up at the sharp end. From third on the starting grid, Nelson Panciatici had already moved up to second by the time the cars reached the first straight. The Frenchman kept in touch with the leading Zytek all the way through to the first driver change. The battle for the lead intensified, but the Alpine A450b was again in command once the second sequence of refuelling stops had been completed.
However, a brace of penalties subsequently halted the progress of the Alpine A450b, with an initial stop-and-go (relating to the number of mechanics around the car during a refuelling stop) followed by an enforced three-minute pit visit (wheel spin in the pit lane) which sent the N°36 car tumbling down the order to sixth overall. This meant that with under an hour of the race remaining, a re-think of the strategy was required, and Signatech-Alpine put all of its efforts into ensuring it scored the necessary points to be able to clinch a second consecutive title. But Alpine recovered fifth position and took the chequered flag as champion!
Philippe Sinault (Team Principal, Signatech-Alpine): “I am very happy and proud of the work carried out by the entire team. Successfully defending a title is no mean feat, which makes the retention of our European crown all the more satisfying. The final round put everybody to the test, but the whole team remained calm, as they have done since we achieved our podium finish at Le Mans. I must thank Alpine for placing its faith in us. Together, we have shared and continue to share some incredible moments and emotions. Roll on next year!”
Nelson Panciatici: “Following a positive qualifying session, I made a good start in the race. I could perhaps have taken the lead going into the first corner, but with what was at stake, I preferred to play it safe. I was able to maintain a good rhythm without taking any risks and despite the two penalties that deprive us of victory at Estoril, we were able to win the championship. I’m thrilled to be the first driver to successfully defend the LMP2 class crown, with the podium in the Le Mans 24 Hours is two massive results. The performances were there all the year. The team has demonstrated that it is strong and that the victory last year was no fluke. A big ‘thank you’ to the entire team, Alpine, Philippe and my team mate Paul Loup and Oliver. I just hope we will be able to keep this momentum going next year”
Bernard Ollivier (Alpine Director): “The winning instinct that has long been an Alpine trademark ultimately triumphed! The team united and worked together to overcome several setbacks. We really rolled up our sleeves and went out and fought for this second consecutive title. Each member of our young crew – with an average age of just 24 – demonstrated their maturity. Offering talented young drivers a chance to prove themselves is another Alpine tradition!”
The success represents Alpine’s third European crown following those achieved 40 years ago with the Alpine A441 and last year with the Alpine A450. Panciatici is the first driver to claim back-to-back titles in this class in the European Le Mans Series!
Beyond the evident joy of retaining its hard-fought crown, Nelson Panciatici is also quick to offer all of its support to Jules Bianchi and those close to him.
See you next year for new adventures with Alpine because we do not change a winning team!