1977 Renault-Alpine A442
Pilots: P. Depailler, J. Lafitte
Team: Renault Sport
Race: DNF (Group 6) at Le Mans in 1977
Spark - S1554 (resin)
Founded by the ex-pilot Jean Rédélé in 1955, Alpine started out making racing coupes using Renault 4CV engines. The firm always had a great relationship with Renault, and by 1971 Alpine had become the French automaker’s de facto racing department. In 1973, Renault was interested in entering in the European Sports Prototype Championship, and Alpine was developing the A440 and later on the A441 to use Renault’s new V6 engine. In early 1976 Renault finally bought the engineering firm, and Alpine officially became their racing division.
With the acquisition Renault inherited all of Alpine’s projects, and one of them was the A442. The car officially debuted in 1975, at the Mugello 1000 km. Though still under development, to the surprise of the engineering team, it finished in first place. However, for Renault what really imported was the race at La Sarthe. It was a matter of pride to put a Renault car at the podium.
The A442 was a direct evolution of the first A440, but with a big difference: it was turbo-charged. The engine was a 1997 cm³ Renault-Gordini V6 at 90º, with 24 valves and DOHC, but boosted by a large Garrett turbocharger, pushing power output to 490 hp. The chassis was a relatively petit steel space frame but enveloped in a long glass fiber body. It was specially long at the rear, for better aerodynamics specifically to allow higher speeds at the Mulsanne straight. The A442 first raced at La Sarthe in the 1976 race, but had to abandon in the 135th lap with engine problems.
With the car fully developed, for the 1977 24 Heures du Mans Renault Sport lined up a full deck of three A442s. Unfortunately though, that year Lady Luck was not speaking French, and all cars had to abandon because of engine problems. A442 #8 is chassis #442, the last remaining Renault to abandon on the 289th lap.
In 1:43rd terms there isn’t much to say other than it’s a Spark. In other words, it’s a fantastic model, just as nice as the winning Bubble Top. Well, I would say the A442 #8 is my second best A442 just because #8 has the bubble top. However, since A442 #8 here is not a winner, maybe it’s just for the Le Mans buff.