Seven weeks after its racing debut in Qatar, Alpine discovered a new track with the first runs of the A424 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola in round two of the FIA WEC.



The team made the most of the three practice sessions to find the best setups and compromises on the Italian circuit. The 242 laps completed also enabled the Alpine Endurance Team to ease the integration of Jules Gounon, who was present with the team this weekend to make up for the absence of Ferdinand Habsburg during his recover.



Paul-Loup Chatin and Nicolas Lapierre were entrusted with Saturday's qualifying session. Under threatening skies, they had to rise to the challenge of putting up their medium tyres in the optimal window on an ever-changing track. Cut short by a red flag on their fastest flying laps two minutes from the end of the session, the #35 and #36 Alpines had to settle for the ninth row on the grid.



Charles Milesi and Matthieu Vaxiviere were behind the wheel of their respective Alpine A424s for the start of the 6 Hours of Imola. After the two formation laps, Matthieu Vaxiviere put in a good start, gaining several places heading to turn one, but got caught up in a chain reaction accident with the #11 Isotta Fraschini, the #94 Peugeot and the #15 BMW. Behind them, Charles Milesi had to negotiate the gravel trap at the first chicane to avoid them, and return to the track in LMGT3 traffic.



During the safety car period, the remarkable efficiency of the mechanics saw them change the front and rear ends and a track rod in less than five minutes on the #36 car. Matthieu Vaxiviere rejoined the race three laps behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Charles Milesi made quick work of the LMGT3s to catch up with the Hypercars after the restart before reporting a power steering alert, which was quickly fixed during his first pit stop.



Fourteenth after this animated start to the race, Charles Milesi handed over to Paul-Loup Chatin. In eighteenth place, Matthieu Vaxiviere handed the reins to Mick Schumacher. Using different tyre strategies, they racked up the laps to gather crucial information on the tyre degradation before switching to wet tyres as soon as it began to rain with two hours to go.



The German and the Frenchman - who had one minor excursion - applied themselves diligently in the face of an ever-increasing number of challenges before being relayed by Nicolas Lapierre and Jules Gounon, respectively, in the final hour. Jules Gounon drove an intelligent and clean stint on slicks on a drying track to secure 13th place for his crew on his prototype debut. Behind him, Nicolas Lapierre consolidated the work of his teammates in the sister car before an aquaplaning moment dropped him to 16th place after a duel with the #94 Peugeot.



At the end of this team-building weekend in front of 73,600 spectators, Alpine lies fifth among the nine constructors competing in the World Hypercar Manufacturers' Endurance Championship. The next round of the season takes place on 9-11 May at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) for another six-hour race.



Charles Milesi
"It was a tricky race. We'd never run on this circuit before, and it revealed some of our areas for improvement. The start was pretty chaotic, and I had no choice but to drive through the gravel trap. I then tried to do my best despite a small problem with the power steering, which cost us around 15 seconds and forced us to make an early stop. Paul-Loup and Jules handled the rest of the race well in challenging conditions, but we couldn't aim any higher. We now know more on the areas we must work on for the next race."



Jules Gounon
"It was a complicated week for the team. The programme is still young, and it was my first race weekend in the car, as a replacement for Ferdinand. My target was to avoid mistakes and I am pleased to have done so, although I still have much to learn about the prototype. It was a full-scale test, but the team collected a lot of information to bounce back at Spa and the following races.”



Paul-Loup Chatin
"After our strong debut in Qatar, we experienced more difficulties on a different circuit. Our lack of driving on this track compared to the competition highlighted the areas we need to keep working on, analysing what happened to move forward. Nothing is ever perfect in top-level competition, and I can see that everyone is now focusing on the next round despite the disappointment. The team is even more united at this difficult time, and I know that no one will give up, so we can come back stronger.”



Matthieu Vaxiviere
"It's always complicated when a six-hour race starts like this. I had prepared well for the start; my tyres were up to temperature, and I don't think I took any unnecessary risks. Everything happened so quickly. I felt I was hit from behind, which sent me into the Peugeot and BMW. I returned the car to the pits, where the mechanics did an excellent job to get us back out there as quickly as possible. We had good pace, but we lacked a bit compared to the others, so we must keep working and analysing to improve on the whole race."



Mick Schumacher
"Overall, it was a pretty difficult weekend, and the race didn't go our way. The most important thing is to remember the positives. We were fast to react to changing weather conditions. The communication between the team and myself was excellent, and we showed good potential in both wet and dry conditions. We need to look at the areas where we can still improve. We're still in the early stages of the project, but I'm convinced we can move forward from Spa."



Nicolas Lapierre
"Overall, it was a race full of learnings, highlighting the areas we need to improve as shown on a specific track where the car had never been run before. Despite the result, we're going to develop some areas to work on before the next race. Spa will come up fairly quickly with a very different but more conventional track, which hopefully should suit us better."



Philippe Sinault, Alpine Endurance Team Principal
"We knew it would be a difficult race, especially after qualifying, when we were a bit unlucky. It was a new track with different characteristics from anything we'd experienced. The aim was to keep learning.
We lost big at the start, and that was followed by traffic management, tricky conditions and a number of race incidents.
Nevertheless, I'd like to emphasise how well each driver adapted to these challenges. The team kept Ferdinand in its thoughts throughout the weekend, as he took part in the debriefing sessions remotely.
I'd also like to highlight Jules' fine debut, both in the context of his integration to the race team and his first outing on a tricky track. We've highlighted the areas we need to keep working on for the rest of the season. It is a good thing, and both our cars finished again. We now have a lot of data to analyse in the three weeks leading up to Spa, which is coming up quickly, so we won't be slacken our efforts to continue our learning process and aim to make progress ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans."





6 Hours of Imola

1. Toyota Gazoo Racing #7
2. Porsche Penske Motorsport #6
3. Porsche Penske Motorsport #5
13. Alpine Elf Endurance Team #35
16. Alpine Elf Endurance Team #36


FIA Hypercar World Endurance Drivers' Championship

1. Estre / Lotterer / Vanthoor – 56 points
2. Conway / de Vries / Kobayashi – 40 points
3. Campbell / Christensen / Makowiecki – 39 points
9. Chatin / Milesi – 9 points
10. Habsburg – 9 points
15. Lapierre / Schumacher / Vaxiviere – 0 point


FIA Hypercar World Endurance Manufacturers' Championship

1. Porsche – 57 points
2. Toyota – 48 points
3. Ferrari – 31 points
4. BMW – 17 points
5. Alpine – 15 points