Another horror in the news from France today (and now Turkey), so a melancholy day to feature their cars. After news broke last night, I thought it would be fitting to share a car that overcame tall odds to win Le Mans outright with an all-French car and team, the incredible Alpine-Renault A442b.
Following Matra’s success from 1972-74, Renault decided the Tricolore needed to continue at the top, and started an ambitious program to win Le Mans and the World Championships for themselves. Starting with development of a 4-cam 2.0L turbo V6 called the CH1 in 1973, they attacked the lower Formula and Sports Prototype classes with gusto, finding success from the beginning with such cars as the Alpine A440 and 441. From 1975 the CHS version of the engine was turbocharged and good for 500hp, aimed squarely for Group 6 and overall honors at Le Mans above all else, beginning in the Mirage GR8, Alpine A441T, and the first of these chassis, the A442.
The 442 utilized the aerodynamic groundwork laid by the A440 as seen in the body profile over the wheels, but varied over the beltline, particularly in its large airbox and elevated rear wing. The 442 was run from 1975 with limited success, as despite winning its first race at Mugello it often suffered mechanical issues or plain bad luck in that first season. But its biggest battle lay ahead: that with the all-conquering Porsche 936.
Unfortunately, the pattern of good placings laced with failure pervaded the 1977 season, but lessons were learned going into 1978 the would prove critical. All came good at Le Mans in 1978, when this A442B of Frenchmen Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud emerged from the 24 hours victorious after capitalizing on the Porsche juggernaut’s failings and bad luck. It was a hard earned and well deserved win, justifying in a single day the tremendous expense and heartbreak they had suffered. A French machine would win again in 1979, but with a Ford-funded heart, making this the last truly French car to win Le Mans until Peugeot’s similarly singular effort paid off in 2009.
So with this brief story of French triumph over adversity on a vastly less significant field, let it remind you of her strength. Think of those in Nice, and others around the world suffering at the hands of madness and zealotry. Hug your families and have a good weekend in spite of recent events, it’s the least we can do because love and happiness must overcome. ·
Model by Spark, 1/43