On 12 June 1978, Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, driving a Renault Alpine, were the first across the finish line of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This win marked the culmination of an adventure that had begun 5 years earlier.
A well-earned victory!
This 1978 win could actually be credited to a decision made in 1973, when Alpine, backed by ELF, announced its comeback to elite-level circuit racing.
Several key factors contributed to its success: a top-notch team founded by Jean Terramorsi and later led by Gérard Larrousse; a V6 engine created by Bernard Dudot, who would go on to become the mastermind behind turbocharger technology; Renault’s involvement through Renault Sport, founded in 1976; and talented, steadfast drivers like Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Didier Pironi.
The early days of Formule 1
Over a 5-year period, the first A440, fitted with a naturally-aspirated engine, would evolve into the 441 and finally into the turbocharged 442, collecting several world championship wins along the way. All three runners were forced to drop out of the 1977 Le Mans race due to engine failure. Renault would have to find a test track capable of recreating the tough conditions of the Mulsanne Straight, meaning 50 seconds at full throttle! The next year, 2 Renault Alpine cars finished 1st and 4th.
Ironically, on the night of the race, Renault managing director Bernard Hanon announced that Renault would be dropping its Le Mans programme to concentrate on Formule 1. A new page had turned.