The Alpine sports car brand, part of French automaker Renault, will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race this year. The announcement comes after Renault announced that it would revive Alpine to build a new sports car in partnership with British manufacturer Caterham.
Renault and Caterham now jointly own Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham, which is slated to launch its first road car in 2016. This year, however, the companies will drum up interest in the revived brand by entering an LMP prototype race car in the five-round European Le Mans Series championship. That will include an appearance in June at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
The Alpine LMP2 car will use an Alpine-developed chassis and a 500-hp Nissan engine, and will be developed with help from Nissan's official racing team Signatech. Alpine says it will have the car ready for the ELMS season opener at Britain's Silverstone circuit on April 13. The car will be co-driven by Frenchmen Pierre Ragues and Nelson Panciatici. It is shown in the shadowy teaser photo above.
The return to Le Mans is fitting for the Alpine racing brand, as it entered the endurance race 11 times with a total of 55 cars between 1963 and 1978. In 1978, Alpine won the race outright with an A442B prototype driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi.
"Alpine's return to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours in 2013 marks the beginning of a new adventure which is set to last," Renault CEO Carlos Tavares said in a statement. "Together, step by step, we will do our very best to write another exciting page in the history of Alpine, a truly outstanding name in the world of French sports cars."
We expect the eventual Alpine/Caterham production car will be a sports coupe that may resemble the A110-50 concept car shown last May. The concept, named for Alpine's successful A110 that bowed 50 years prior in 1962, used carbon-fiber bodywork, a twin-turbo V-6 good for 400 hp, and a six-speed sequential transmission.