After a thrilling start to the season at Spa-Francorchamps, the FIA WEC is about to discover a new circuit as it heads to Portugal, for the first in its history, and more specifically to Portimão.
Philippe Sinault, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team Principal said “All races have their specificities, but Portimão represents the first real test of the season. We have only competed on this circuit once before, and we found it to be unique with its elevation changes being a true physical test to the drivers.
“The other particularity will be the duration of the race as it will be the first eight-hour round, thus increasing the challenge to the teams, mechanics and crews. With this track and expected temperatures, tyre degradation should also be an area to focus on, and in particular the left front tyre that is particularly stressed in Portimão.
“It will undoubtedly add an extra dose of management, strategy and humanity to the race. In addition to the track, other parameters will come into play as we will have to continue to adapt our A480 to a constantly finetuned balance of performance.
“The task is now getting more complicated with the arrival of Glickenhaus, a new opponent that we are delighted to welcome, and the LMP2s are more dangerous than ever. We are looking forward to the first practice session to find out who is in the top tier, although our main target will be to continue our learning curve building on the lessons learned at Spa.”
The team is no stranger to Portugal, having sealed its second European title in 2014, but the endurance racing scene has since moved from Estoril to Portimão.
Built in 2008, the Autódromo do Algarve is considered one of the most technical tracks in Europe with its high-speed corners and steep elevation changes making for a great show as Alpine F1 Team found out last month.
Among the many challenges awaiting Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team in the Algarve, the team’s three drivers will have to pay particular attention to turn one, where they will have to be extra cautious to avoid an incident.
Located at the end of a nearly one-kilometre-long straight, it is preceded by a downhill braking zone that leads to a fast corner sequence, then a slower section.
On the rest of the circuit, the trio will also have to apply themselves on the blind crests, which require continuous commitment, and a constant rhythm or the slightest mistake will cost them precious seconds.
The other interesting aspect of this new meeting will concern the duration of the race: eight hours versus six at Spa-Francorchamps.
Anything but insignificant, this difference will offer a variety of strategies and more points at the finish with 38 for the win compared to the standard 25.
As always, Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team will approach the race with humility, but also with the desire to become the first brand to beat Toyota in an eight-hour race in FIA WEC history.
However, the competition will be more intense with the entry of Glickenhaus Racing, not to mention the LMP2 cars that are more than capable of joining the battle for overall victory.
The balance of performance will also change, with a weight increase from 930kg to 952kg for the #36 Alpine A480, and energy available per stint decreasing from 920MJ to 918MJ.
Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere will use the one and only Friday free practice session to fine-tune their Hypercar before continuing their work with the operations team Saturday afternoon just until qualifying.
Thirty-two cars, including four Hypercars and eleven LMP2s, will start the 8 Hours of Portimão on Sunday at 11 am local time.