Beauty and the Beast; Alpine vs Alpine GT4
As a teenager, I was already a great fan of the old Alpines. When I turned 20, I was looking to buy one, and seeing what they are worth today, it was quite stupid not to do so…
I first drove an old Alpine with my dad in Gstaad in 2013… It was a 1300. I was instantly amazed by the quality of the chassis. How could such an old car have such great handling capabilities? The brakes and gearbox were obviously from an older generation, but the car had some amazing capabilities. The second time I drove an Alpine was in 2019 for the Tour Auto; this time it was the 1600s, completely built for the purpose. The gearbox was like butter, the brakes were consistent, and the extra power from the engine was very useful. Apart from the smell of fuel in the car you could not tell this thing was 50 years old…
The first time I drove a new Alpine was for the Montée des Légendes in 2018. I went to the garage and picked up a standard Alpine A110, completely stock. Sebastien Loeb showed up to the hill climb with his Peugeot Pikes Peak beast, Romain Grosjean with a Lancia Integrale Group B car and Romain Dumas with a Porsche GT3…
For me, it was my first time pushing on an open road… basically my first time rallying. Simon Jean-Joseph climbed in 3min flat in a WRC car. I climbed in 3m 30secs with a stock Alpine on stock tires… less than 4sec per km off Jean-Joseph.
Quite unbelievable if I say so myself. And you know what is most incredible, is that the feeling of the old Berlinetta is still there. Obviously the car is better in all aspects, but its main DNA and the way it behaves is still the same.
If you have never driven an Alpine, you must try one. For me, it is the last car that stands alone from everything else being released these days. It reminds me of the Lotus Elise, but with the added comfort of a modern interior. It is the only car that will provide a feeling of lightness through a corner or when faced with a roundabout. For a driver, or an engineer, weight is the number one trade-off between pleasure and performance. Ask Gordon Murray or Colin Chapman. In recent years, we have been chasing horsepower, but you rarely, if ever, can actually use the whole lot.
I have driven many cars in my career, from Formula 1 to Formula E and LMP1 to Andros Ice racing cars. All of them have something in common: they are real racing cars, built from scratch for a sole purpose.
GT4 cars are the result of heavy modifications upon any standard production car. Yes, they involve a lot of changes, but the core body is the same. So, if the base is poor, it is very difficult to work around.
How does the Alpine road car compare to the track modified GT4? They are very different, but again the DNA remains… The Alpine remains the lightest car in GT4, and on a tight circuit, you might have to remove a tire to make it slow. If it’s hot, you can hardly stop it.
In the end, what makes the Alpine special? The name Alpine was chosen as the original car was to be the best on mountainous roads. The goal was clearly achieved. Whether a Berlinetta, a new Alpine A110 or a GT4, the Alpine is at its best though fast flowing corners. It might well be the last lightweight, affordable sportscar, as the next generation of will probably be hybrid or fully electric. I have nothing against these technologies, building lightweight sportscars running on lithium batteries in the short term will be near-impossible, especially at an affordable price.