Alpine is preparing for a drawn-out and challenging process to get its A424 homologated in time for its 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship debut.
The Alpine Endurance team hopes to make its debut at the Qatar 1812km, the WEC’s inaugural round, in March. But in order to do so, it must deal with a unique set of events that weren’t encountered by its LMDh counterparts after being the first manufacturer to only race an LMDh car outside of the United States.
This is because Alpine is the only manufacturer to produce an LMDh car with the primary intention of taking part in the WEC.
Given that Cadillac and Porsche compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the WEC, Acura has so far only concentrated on the former, with BMW getting ready to expand its U.S.-based program with Team RLL to include a WEC effort with Team WRT.
Lamborghini which is also scheduled to unveil a completely new LMDh contender in 2024 will take the same approach with an eye towards a joint WEC-Michelin Endurance Cup campaign next season,
But, as chief LMDh engineer Yann Paranthoen of Alpine clarified, Alpine will still need to send its car to the Windshear wind tunnel in North Carolina as part of the homologation process. It will also be required to travel to the Sauber facility in Switzerland In order for the hypercar to meet WEC requirements.
Any LMDh car must pass Windshear test in order to be homologated regardless of the manufacturer’s intention to take part in IMSA races as IMSA president John Doonan has previously stated.
“We have to go because it’s IMSA and ACO homologation,” Paranthoen said. “So week 46 in Windshear for IMSA homologation because LMDh and week 50 we go back to Europe in Sauber to do the ACO/FIA homologation.
“It’s a very long process.”
According to Paranthoen, Alpine will be transporting just one A424 from North Carolina to Switzerland rather than allocating separate chassis for each stage of the homologation process.
“It’s the same car,” he said “We have one car in the U.S. so far. So end of week 46 (mid-November) we finish Windshear and we go back to Europe with the same car.
“We do the correlation between the Windshear and Sauber wind tunnel and we also do a pre-test in Sauber to check all the values and the different between Windshear and Sauber.
“It’s a very long way and very difficult because the performance window is quite tricky. You have to be in the right window if you want to be fast at Le Mans, fast in Bahrain, fast at Interlagos.
“We have to think about it at the beginning of the project. It’s not so easy.
“Yes, for sure it’s difficult to go to IMSA and then to go to WEC and have the same correlation between Windshear and Sauber. It’s not so easy.”
Alpine has not made any plans to participate in the WeatherTech Championship, despite recently admitting that it has discussed the prospect of a GTP class entry with Meyer Shank Racing.
The outfit’s Vice President of Motorsports Bruno Famin stated that Alpine is not surprised by the challenges that were encountered during the homologation process because they were aware of these issues right from the initial stages of development.
“It’s the regulation and we knew it from the beginning,” Famin explained. “LMDh has to be homologated through the IMSA process.
“We have a second car, which is there, which has already made a test session at Windshear.
“We plan it and we hope we make it work but there is no surprise. It was the plan.”
A424 will be joining the WEC grid in Qatar while Acura, Cadillac, Porsche, and BMW are currently wrapping up a full season of action. With this, Alpine is anticipated to be among the last LMDh manufacturers to begin running their cars.
“It’s a handicap because we are very late in the development compared to the start of the season,” said Famin. “It’s an advantage also because some competitors have solved quite a lot of problems on the spec hybrid system, for example.
“We benefit from some learning there, for sure. More or less, it’s balanced I think.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage, I don’t think it’s a disadvantage to be on that timeline.”