Pierre Ragues and the Signatech Alpine Elf team have completed the 88th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours in an impressive fourth place in the LMP2 class, having been in last place after a water leak on the opening lap on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tenacious performance from the three drivers – Pierre, Thomas Laurent and Andre Negrão – as well as from the team’s dedicated engineers and mechanics – as they narrowly missed out on a podium against all odds.
The Alpine A470-Gibson was classified in eighth overall in an exciting and thrilling final part of the 24-hour epic race.
The team had started from tenth on the grid when the flag was waved at 14:30 local time on Saturday afternoon. It was, however, just moments into the race when Andre experienced a water leak on the #36 car which necessitated a pit stop for repairs. The mechanics acted swiftly and professionally to identify and fix the problem, losing just two laps in the process – but with an uphill task.
Pierre got his first taste of race action in the fourth hour with the fightback already underway. He found good pace from the car and enjoyed a trouble-free double stint. As the race entered its early evening phase, Andre resumed on a mission.
All three drivers extracted full performance from the car and tyres, negotiating occasional safety car periods and slow zones that are a typical feature of Le Mans. Sadly, with no fans permitted on site due to the ongoing pandemic, it was a very different atmosphere, especially as the race entered its night phase.
Making the most of a safety car, Pierre jumped back in the car late on Saturday for two more stints as the Signatech Alpine Elf team responded to the situation with an adjusted strategy. It was an extended period under caution with numerous issues on track during a frenetic start to night racing. Pierre handed over to Thomas as the race reached its one-third distance mark holding 17th overall and 13th of the LMP2 cars.
There were no dramas for the team during the overnight part of the race and as the sun rose on Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday morning, Pierre, Thomas and Andre had all continued the team’s progress. The Frenchman was back behind the wheel under partly cloudy morning skies, on a mission to gain more places in the #36 car. A faultless double stint saw Pierre move up into the top-ten overall, and sixth in class, as Thomas took over with five hours to go.
As excitement mounted across all classes, Signatech Alpine Elf was able to capitalise on its consistently strong pace, race strategy and never-give-up attitude to move up to fourth place and eighth overall – a dream result considering their placement at the end of the opening lap!
Pierre said: “If you had told me on Saturday afternoon that we would be finishing the Le Mans 24 Hours in fourth place in LMP2 and eighth overall, I don’t think I would have believed it. The water leak issue on that first lap really took the wind out of our sails but we remained committed to a fight back, knowing that anything can happen at this fantastic race. Apart from that one issue, we had a completely trouble-free and competitive race. All three drivers did our job, staying focused on the job we had to do, and making the most of any opportunities to gain positions. The team’s strategy was first class, as was the job of the mechanics and engineers. I’d like to say thanks to my team-mates, Andre, Thomas and all of Signatech Alpine Elf, as well as my partners. My congratulations also go to the Richard Mille Racing crew, our garage-mates this weekend, who did a fantastic job in their first Le Mans! This race never fails to deliver excitement and emotion, but we were truly missing the fans this year. We share these results with them all around the world.”