It all began in the 1950s, when a man driven by a passion for cars, with a special taste for competition, Jean Rédélé, started the adventure. The driver, future creator of Alpine, would take the Dieppe brand to the ultimate consecration a few years later.
The origin of this craze is undoubtedly the connection of the Rédélé family itself to the automobile. Indeed, at the beginning of the 20th century, at the request of Louis Renault, Emile Rédélé (Jean’s father) opened his first Renault dealership in Dieppe. After his studies in Normandy, Jean Rédélé joined HEC Paris and graduated in 1946 with a double degree in economics and social sciences. With his innovative ideas and a disconcerting strength of conviction, he sent a report on his internship at Renault and was summoned by Pierre Dreyfus, the CEO at the time. Following this interview, everything accelerated, and he was appointed official dealer in Dieppe, succeeding his father. Jean Rédélé thus became the youngest French car dealer at just 24 years old. In 1950, Jean Rédélé entered the world of motor racing and was
determined to use the race as a marketing instrument. He turned the new 4CV into a real promotional tool, considering that a car’s victory was a guarantee of quality and performance, much more so than the arguments of the dealers of that time. He teamed up with his loyal friend Louis Pons, and they developed what would later become the Alpine DNA. The two men called on André-Georges Claude to manufacture and market a five-speed gearbox. According to Jean Rédélé, a lighter and more streamlined body would make the car unbeatable. This is why in 1953, he went to Italy to see Giovanni Michelotti and placed an order for a “4 CV Spéciale Sport”. In 1955, Jean Rédélé received his second “Rédélé Spéciale”, and his two cars won the “Mille Miglia”. This exceptional double victory marked the birth of the Dieppoise brand. Its creator wanted to build a French car to showcase the French colours on the roads and in competitions Its name would be Alpine.
There is no doubt that competition runs in the veins of the Alpine brand. Jean Rédélé dreams of challenging the victorious DBs (Deutsch-Bonnet) in the energy efficiency index (EEI) at Le Mans. This is awarded to the car that offers the best ratio between its average speed and its fuel consump. In 1963, he disrupted the party by entering 3 prototypes under the direction of José Rosinski. The Alpine M63 had a chassis designed by en – gineers Richard Bouleau and Bernard Boyer. The body was designed by the aerodynamicist Marcel Hubert and was based on the concept of the water drop, both elegant and aerodyna Powered by a 996 cc R8 Gordini engine developing 93 bhp for a weight of 600 kg, this prototype was reaching up to 230 km/h in the Hunaudières straight. This first attempt at Le Mans was marked by a failure for the Dieppoise brand, as Bruce MacLaren’s Aston Martin spilled oil on the track at nightfall due to the explosion of its engine. The M63 n°49 with Bino Heins on board tried to avoid the debris and crashed into a pylon. Under the violence of the impact, the Brazilian driver was killed, the car was cut in two and burst into flames. There was consternation in the Alpine stand, but the race continued until the other two M63s retired due to mechanical breakdown. The M64 was born in 1964, following an evolution of the regulations. With a tubular chassis that was stiffer and 20 kg lighter, the car kept its CX and got a 1001 cc engine (for the performance index) and a 1149 cc engine (for the fuel efficiency index). Roger de Lageneste and Henry Morrogh finished being 17th in overall, but still won the fuel efficiency index.
THE ALPINE SAGA AT THE 24H OF LE MANS
In 1965, the M65 appeared. The main change is the aerodynamic its aerodynamic aspect. It adopts two drifts on the rear wings, and a spoiler to stabilize the car at high speeds. The suspension is improved and Alpine designs magnesium wheels. made of magnesium. The engines are 1005 cm3 and 1296 cm3. Unfortunately, none of the 6 cars entered finished the race. In 1966, Jean Rédélé wanted to copy the codification to production cars such as the A110. The new prototype was not called the M66 but the A210. Six cars began at the starting line the starting line and the Dieppoise brand scored three victories in the category of prototypes with a cubic capacity of less than 1.3 litres. They also won the fuel efficiency index. The only problem; two of the six cars dropped out. In order to leave nothing to chance and establish its dominance in racing, the A211 was equipped with a 3-litre V8 engine, but the car was too heavy and lacked stability at high speeds. This was the first time that the French brand had encountered difficulties with aerodynamics and was forced to work on a completely new car. To better exploit the potential of the V8 Gordini, the Alpine A220 was launched in 1968.
It offered 310 bhp at 7,500 rpm for a total weight of 680 kg Under the astonished eyes of Jean Rédélé, the four A220s clearly did not shine on the Sarthe circuit. However, the A210s won the fuel efficiency index and the performance index. Against the background of a quarrel between Alpine and Gordini, who blamed each other for the failures, the Alpine A220 was abandoned. It was with a totally different ambition that Alpine made its return to Le Mans in 1975. Being at that time a subsidiary of Renault since 1973, the racing cars went through a complete redesign. The A441 prototype driven by an all-female crew was powered by a 2-litre turbocharged V6 with 490 bhp. Marie-Claude Beaumont stopped in Indianapolis in 6th place. The problem arose due to a miscalculation on the quality of the fuel. At that moment, Jean Rédélé knew that this was the last step
before victory. Winning the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours was the goal set by Renault for Gérard Larousse. However, the last reworked “failures” enabled the birth of a sacred monster of automobile history. The 24h will now be in yellow and black on the A442 and then the A443. Equipped with a 2-litre turbocharged V6, Renault Alpine wanted to close the cockpit of the A443 with a bubble to improve the coefficient of penetration in the air. Four Renault Alpines were aligned on the starting line by Jarier-Bell, Fréquelin-Ragnotti, Pironi-Jaussaud in the A442 and Jabouille-Depailler in the A443. After numerous tests at Le Castellet and on a test track in the United States, the cars were ready to fight it out on the Sarthe circuit. It was Saturday, June 10, 1978 and under a blazing sun, Jean-Pierre Jabouille stressed out the Porsche clan with an anthological performance.
A few hours before the end of the race, the A443 and A442B were leading the Porsches. The sustained pace of the Germans worried the Alpine team, which decided to play it safe by lowering the turbo pressure on the A443. This modification of the settings caused an anomaly and immobilised the car. The engine stopped working and from then on, only the A442B remained in the race for victory with with an 8 lap lead over the two Porsches. Despite the fantastic push back from the Porsches, the Alpine A442B crossed the finish line and took the long-awaited victory. It was also the first time that a V6 engine won at Le Mans. Following this victory, Alpine focused on Formula 1 and used its endurance expertise to design the first turbo engine in F1. After a long absence, Alpine reignited the flame of passion and returned to Le Mans in 2013.
It was in LMP2, under the name of Signatech Alpine, that it took first place in its class in 2016, 2018 and 2019. In 2021, Alpine won the podium in the hyper car category and succeeded in its challenge by taking third place in the overall classification. The omnipresence of the Dieppoise brand during this last edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, especially with the parade representing Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 car, and the advertising panels, encourages us to see Alpine continue this beautiful story of endurance.
Texte : VICTOR JENNES
Images : RENAULT ALPINE