CONSTRUCTORS: ALPINE (AUTOMOBILES ALPINES)
Name: Alpine (Automobiles Alpines)
The Renault 4CV was conceived by Renault engineers for the immediate post-war era which, the company judged, would be austere years. It was small, compact and cheap. The car was launched at the Paris Salon in September 1946 and was soon selling well. Jean Redele was the son of the Renault concessionaire in the town of Dieppe on France's north coast. He converted a 4CV into a racing machine and began to enter it in races and rallies. In 1951 he established Automobiles Alpine and scored his first notable international success with class victory on the Mille Miglia in 1952.
Redele built the first prototype chassis in 1953, based on the 4CV frame. The cars enjoyed considerable success in rallying and received more and more help from Renault. The Alpine models were put into production in the late 1950s and in the early 1960s Redele was encouraged by Renault to concentrate on rallying and sportscars. It was not until 1964 that Alpine turned its attention to Renault-engined single-seater cars for the French Formula 3 series. Ron Tauranac was hired as a consultant and the cars - which were designed by Marcel Hubert - followed the Brabham design trends of the time. Henry Grandsire used one to win the inaugural French F3 title. Mauro Bianchi drove one to third place at Monaco and, in Formula 2 spec, they were raced by Bianchi, Jose Rosinski and Jean Vinatier. In the years that followed Alpine was somewhat overshadowed by Matra - which was happy to use foreign engines - although the 1966 season saw Roby Weber finish runner-up in the French F3 series to Johnny Servoz-Gavin's Matra.
After that, Formula France, sportscars and rallying became the priority for Alpine although a F1 prototype was built and tested by Bianchi in 1969. Rallying was to bring the most success with a win on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1971.
It was not until Matra began to wind down its involvement in single-seater racing that Alpines was able to develop in single-seater racing. This was largely due to the financial support of Elf and political support from Renault's Jacques Cheinisse. The program began with the A360 with which Patrick Depailler won the French F3 title in 1971. This was followed by the A364 - designed by Andre de Cortanze - with Renault engines designed by Bernard Dudot.
Alpine won the Monte Carlo Rally and the new World Rally Championship in 1973 and it was not long after that that the company was taken over by Renault. The involvement in F3 had ended and Alpine supplied chassis in F2 to Elf, the cars winning the European F2 titles in 1976 with Jean-Pierre Jabouille driving.
That same year Alpine designer Andre de Cortanze built a prototype F1 chassis, fitted with a turbocharged engine. The A500 did considerable mileage as Renault turned its attention to a Formula 1 program. At the end of 1976 the Alpine competition department in Dieppe was closed down and the engineering staff were relocated to the new Renault Sport headquarters at Viry Chatillon. The Alpine name lived on in sportscar racing until 1978 when Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi won the classic Le Mans 24 Hours.