Still in contention for the world title, Signatech Alpine Matmut arrived in Bahrain solely focused on winning the race. Fourth in the free practice sessions held on Thursday, the team upped their pace the next day in qualifying.
André Negrão and Gustavo Menezes produced a superb performance to set an average time of 1:47.227 and secure pole position in the LMP2 category, almost 4/10ths clear of the two crews ahead of them in the overall standings.
In spite of the point scored for pole position, the situation remained the same for the no.36 Alpine A470 drivers, who simply had to win in order to have a chance of retaining their title! Nicolas Lapierre led at the start, ahead of Oliver Jarvis (no.38) and Bruno Senna (no.31), whose battle allowed Vitaly Petrov (no.25) to get past at the restart following the first SC period.
Held up by the traffic and with premature wear of his hard tyres, Nico decided not to put up a fight when he came under pressure from the Russian. The team decided to alter its strategy as a result, fitting two medium tyres on the left during its first pit stop. After rejoining the track in seventh place, the Frenchman adopted a pace intended to manage his tyres, in order to complete a triple stint as night fell on the Bahrain International Circuit.
At the end of the second hour, André Negrão took over from Nicolas Lapierre. The Brazilian went on the attack, moving up through the field during two stints before handing over driving duties to Gustavo Menezes, who also pushed during his double stint.
With 1 hr 20 mins left to go, Nicolas Lapierre got back behind the wheel to drive the car to the finish. The various strategies of the crews played out and the no.36 Alpine A470 remained in fourth position despite the efforts of the Frenchman.
Thanks to the points scored, Signatech Alpine Matmut sealed third place in the LMP2 championship standings. Although the French squad had to relinquish the title it brilliantly won in 2016, the entire Signatech Alpine Matmut team is proud of what they have accomplished this season.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director
"We can't be anything other than disappointed, not so much for the title, which needed a lot of different things to happen that were out of our control, but more with this fourth place, which was the logical outcome in the end. We had wanted to maximise our chances of winning with a tyre compound that had proven to be incredibly efficient in Austin. We made a mistake, and it proved to be a very costly one. I would nevertheless like to highlight the excellent stints of our drivers, and especially the fightback of André. Despite this frustrating result, everyone gave their absolute maximum and the team stayed completely united throughout. That is what has helped us to put together a fine series of podiums, even if we always aimed for more. Our two rivals have been very consistent. They deserved to beat us in this race and this season. This year, the level of the teams, engineers and drivers has gone up a notch in LMP2."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech Alpine Matmut Team Principal
"Despite the impressive style with which we secured our third consecutive pole position on this track, our task was always going to be very tough. The aim was to win the race and we take full responsibility for the risk taken at the start. The weather conditions seemed to suggest that hard tyres were the right choice. Unfortunately, we noted an unusually high level of degradation on the second stint. We had wanted to compensate for this by putting mediums on the left side, whilst also bringing forward the shortest of the nine stints planned. But it wasn't enough, because we lost thirty-three seconds in eleven laps. We weren't able to fight as we would have liked, even though we cut the deficit to twenty-three seconds in the second part of the race. But we shouldn't let today's result cast a shadow over what has been a fine year. We have been consistent and we managed to pick up our form after a difficult start to finish third. We have been challenging for wins since September, but we were too aggressive today. Congratulations to the champions!"
Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36
"It was a difficult race, with a disappointing outcome. We made the wrong call at the start and we paid the price for it. We managed to hold off our rivals for forty minutes, but the damage was already done by the time we tried to put things right. Our gamble to offset the degradation on the hard tyres with two mediums didn't work the way we had hoped. Our third stint cost us a minute, which we were unable to make up afterwards. Congratulations to Rebellion on their richly deserved title."
"We did a fantastic job to claim pole yesterday. Today, we opted to fit the wrong tyres at the wrong moment. It undoubtedly cost us the race win, but I'm fairly pleased with my stint. I did everything I could to minimise the degradation. Although it wasn't enough in the end, we nonetheless managed five consecutive podiums, several pole positions and a race win. Finishing third in the championship is no disgrace. The season is now over and I hope to continue racing with Alpine next year!"
"We gave our all, although we knew that our chances were slim. Nico did a good job in his first stint to stay among the leaders, but it was difficult to know exactly where we were in relation to the other cars, given that we were on a different strategy. André was fast on his stints and I only had to try and reduce the gap. As I have done all year, I gave it absolutely everything out there. I'm pleased to have made progress this season by accumulating more experience. We can be proud of the work we put in this year, which got us five podiums, including a race win."
6 Hours of Bahrain – LMP2
1. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 186 laps
2. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 +10.696
3. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 +1 lap
4. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 +1 lap
5. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 +1 lap
6. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 + 1 lap
7. G-Drive Racing no.26 +2 laps
8. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 +3 laps
9. TDS Racing no.28 +4 laps
FIA Endurance LMP2 "Teams" Trophy
1. Vaillante Rebellion no.31 – 186 points
2. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.38 – 175 points
3. Signatech Alpine Matmut no.36 – 151 points
4. Vaillante Rebellion no.13 – 85 points
5. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.24 – 83 points
6. G-Drive Racing no.26 – 82 points
7. Jackie Chan DC Racing no.37 – 78 points
8. TDS Racing no.28 – 55 points
9. CEFC Manor TRS Racing no.25 – 46 points