In another shot across the bow of the Hypercar ruleset, French automaker Alpine has decided to eschew the FIA and ACO-developed class in favor of IMSA’s next-gen-DPi, also known as LMDh, for its top-class prototype effort from 2024 onward. Of course both Hypercar and LMDh will be balanced into the same class, but it still must sting the ACO that a home country manufacturer has turned its back on them. LMDh is significantly less expensive and less engineering-intensive to build, and I’m sure that matters for a company that counts its sales in the thousands instead of millions.
Alpine will join the LMDh platform of prototype racing alongside Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Cadillac, BMW, and Acura. There are continuing rumors that Hyundai N might join the fray as well. Of course this is in addition to the Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, and ByKolles efforts that will be running under the Hypercar banner. It’s entirely possible that we will see as many as 26 cars in the prototype class at Le Mans in 2024! That’s twice as many as the race has seen in recent years, back in 2015 when there were 13 factory-entered racers. This is going to be totally bonkers, and that’s before you consider that LMDh was developed for the express purpose of selling cars to privateer entrants.
Alpine kicked off its partnership with race team Signatech in LMP2 back in 2013, and the two have been incredibly successful together. They started small by jumping into the European Le Mans Series, where it won several titles in 2013 and 2014. The team later joined the FIA WEC and took LMP2 titles in 2016 and 2019, plus Le Mans 24 victories in class in 2016, 2018, and 2019. For the 2021 season the team purchased a retired Rebellion R13 LMP1 chassis and entered it in the FIA WEC as a grandfathered-in Hypercar entry. The effort was intended not only to give the team a way to learn more about the Hypercar competition, but to compete at a higher level, and it worked. Alpine finished third overall at Le Mans this year, just four laps down from the winning Toyota, even without a power-adding hybrid system.
Alpine’s new LMDh program will be based, naturally, around a pair of Oreca chassis, and will be powered by an Alpine-developed engine built at Viry-Châtillon, where the company develops its Formula One power units. Enstone will also provide input on the car’s chassis and bodywork development, pushing both the F1 and the LMDh efforts forward as they share expertise.
Alpine Racing CEO and Chairman, Laurent Rossi, had this to say about the program; “Alpine’s Endurance programme highlights the brand’s commitment and ambition to motorsport. By competing in both Formula 1 and Endurance, Alpine will be one of the rare brands competing in both of motorsport’s pinnacles. We will get the best out of Formula 1 and Endurance racing through technical and technological synergies to get the edge over prestigious rivals.
Alpine has not won Le Mans overall since 1978, when the A442B took the tricolore. While both LMDh and Hypercar are eligible to compete in IMSA competition, I don’t expect Alpine to expend much effort racing here in the U.S. as it doesn’t actually sell any cars here. It will certainly be interesting to see Peugeot and Renault/Alpine taking their decades long battle to the track at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024, however.
Tin foil hat time; The FIA and ACO always does its best to ensure a French car wins at Le Mans, so will it side with Peugeot’s Hypercar or Alpine’s LMDh? I’m betting on the Pug, personally.
Alpine and Signatech want to continue racing in the FIA WEC between now and 2024, but the grandfathered-in LMP1 they are running this year won’t be eligible in 2023. It’s not supposed to be eligible in 2023, but the team seems to be planting the seeds for an extension of that grandfather rule. “The brand wants to remain involved in the FIA WEC World Championship in order to best prepare for its arrival in LMDh in 2024.”
I wouldn’t bet against the FIA changing its mind to benefit a French team, either.