SPORTS CAR CONCEPT: Renault will debut the return of the Alpine brand. The AS1 concept is pictured here with the original A110 in the background. Image: Renault
The 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours promises to be a humdinger with the cream of LMP1 teams from Porsche, Audi, Toyota and Nissan facing off for supremacy at La Sarthe in France.
Aside from the on-track action, the 2015 Le Mans promises some other treats for petrolheads too.
Ford is set to announce “significant performance news” on Friday (June 12) – a return to endurance racing perhaps? – while Renault is expected to announce the long-awaited revival of its Alpine brand.
Renault confirmed it will unveil a near-production concept of its two-seat Alpine sports car.
Renault's global Twitter account features a countdown screen promising "a beautiful surprise" to celebrate 60 years of the Alpine brand to be revealed on Saturday (June 13).
It is no secret that the automaker had hoped to revive the Alpine brand and what better place than Le Mans, especially with the Alpine branded A450b LMP2, powered by Nissan, also racing.
SPORTS CAR CONCEPT
The return of the marque is expected to be spearheaded by an Alfa 4C-rivalling two-seat sports car concept, known as the AS1 (Alpine Sport 1), tipped for production in 2016.
It's also expected to make an appearance at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed towards the end of June, with Alpine models such as the 1955 A106, the A110, the 1978 Le Mans-winning A442b and the A450b also on display.
The new Alpine will be a sole Renault effort after plans to develop a sports car in conjunction with Caterham fell through in 2014.
It was previewed by the A110 concept unveiled before the 2012 Monaco GP. Spec details on the new sports car is still unknown, but it will be lightweight, use a Renault Sport (RS) developed petrol unit – probably in a two-litre turbo configuration – and cost the equivalent of R500 000.
The Alpine name dates back to 1955 when the mechanic Jean Redele began racing lightweight Renaults with some success. Redele started developing light-weight racers using Renault engines and badged them Alpine.
The beautiful A110 of 1961 was the most famous of these cars, recording a clean sweep of the Monte Carlo Rally podium in 1971.
Renault bought Alpine in 1973 and introducing a couple of Alpine sports cars of sports cars – including the Alpine GTA and A610 in 1995 – but without real success. The “Alpine” factory is now dedicated to the production of RS models.
However, with the latest revival Renault is serious in its intent to take on premium sporty rivals such as Audi and Porsche.
This cannot be achieved with one model, so the automaker is developing an entire new model range, with the possibility of hybrid tech variant also under consideration.
WHAT A CONCEPT: Renault is reviving the Alpine marque with A two-seater sports car, Alpine Sport 1, planned for production in 2016. Image: Renault