Renault is serious about its revival of the storied Alpine (pronounced “al-peen”) performance brand, which will culminate with the launch of an all-new sports car in 2015. While enthusiasts wait with their wallets agape, Renault plans to give Alpine an airing on the racetrack, including an appearance at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Alpine racer will compete in the LMP 2 class with a 500 horsepower Nissan V8. Renault and Nissan have a strategic partnership, so that makes sense. However, Renault won’t be working with Caterham, the British sports car maker that is partnering with the French firm on the Alpine road car.
In general, today’s Le Mans-style endurance racers don’t have much in common with civilian models, but Alpine’s return to the track is more of a return to form than a public relations stunt.
Alpine competed at Le Mans 11 times between 1963 and 1978, taking seven class wins. Founded in 1955, it built hopped-up Renaults and cars of its own design, including the rally-winning A110. Alpine was eventually purchased outright by Renault, and the brand was retired in 1994.
For its return, Alpine will field a small sports car that will most likely compete with the Porsche Boxster and Cayman models. Renault and Caterham will prioritize handling over power; the car will likely use the engine from one of Renault’s hot hatchback’s producing no more than 250 hp.
Look for the Alpine racer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June, and at other endurance races throughout the year. Those of us without a competition license won’t be able to get behind the wheel of an Alpine until at least 2015, when the new sports car will reportedly debut.