RACING CARS FROM THE SIXTIES
Alpine Renault 220 (1968-9)
Alpine V8 .
A lot of people tend to confuse the French Alpine (pronounced Alpeen) with Sunbeam's Alpine sports model but there is no connection. The French marque first appeared in 1952 when Jean Redele formed the Societe des Automobiles Alpines to produce a Renault powered road car. The firm gradually turned to racing and rallying and when Renault offered sponsorship in 1964 Alpine moved into big time racing, first with a Formula 3 car and
later with a Group 6 two-seater. However, one of the main drawbacks for Alpine has been the very company who made their entry into racing possible because Renault have naturally required Alpine to use Renault power units which have seldom been able to match more specialist power plants. The result is that Alpine have won very few major races despite having excellent chassis
designed by such experts as Len Terry and Ron Tauranac, although usually clothed with rather ugly bodywork.
Most of their racing has been done with variations on the Renault 1100 engine, either in I,OOOCC form for Formula 3 or up to 1,500CC for Group 6 racing.
Alpine have specialised in the Index of Performance and the Index of Thermal Efficiency at Le Mans where they have been successful several times. Most of their engines have been tuned by Amedee Godini who is nicknamed Le Sorcier in France because of his supposed magic ability at extracting power from engines. He ran a team of Formula I Gordinis during the' 50s without success due to lack of finance. He retired from building cars to tune engines and was given a contract by Renault to tune engines for Alpine and other French car builders such as the Rene Bonnet team which was later taken over by Matra.
During 1967 Gordini began developing a V8 engine which although not a basic Renault unit was in fact two of his special I,5-litre Gordini engines on a common crankcase. This engine has a bore and stroke of 85mm x 66mm giving a capacity of 2,986cc which complies with the 3-litre maximum imposed for Prototypes in 1968. Having a cast iron block the V8 has aluminium cylinder heads with two chain driven camshafts for each bank of cylinders. Two valves per cylinder are fitted and carburation is by four downdraught Weber 46IDA carburetters, which are fitted in the centre of the vee, the exhausts being mounted on the outside of the heads. The power output claimed for the engine in 1969 form is 310 bhp at 8,000 rpm which is over 100 bhp less than most of its rivals of the same capacity, thus putting the Alpine Prototypes at an impossible disadvantage. Various modifications including new heads with four valves per cylinder and fuel injection were tested during 1969 but too late to help the team in that season's races.
The chassis of the A220 of 1969 is basically similar to that of the A210 prototype designed by Len Terry in 1964 which shows how slowly development moves at the Alpine factory, changes mainly being aimed at improving the weight distribution. The basic
chassis consists of a large number of small diameter tubes built up into the triangulated multi-tubular pattern which was accepted practice for sports-racing and single seaters in 1964, for the monocoque Lotus 25 had only appeared two years previously and was only gradually being copied by other manufacturers. Cockpit sides are low to give good access through the wide doors. Suspension front and rear is by wide based double wishbones, springing being by co-axial coil springs and de Carbon damper units. The suspension is really outdated by current standards although the geometry has been modified several times. The car was of course originally designed to take a 1,000 cc engine and has had to cope with successive increases to 1,150 cc, 1,300 cc and finally 1,500 cc before the big jump to the 3-litre unit which necessitated stronger gauge tubing, although little else was done to the chassis design. The original 1967 3~1itre prototype was called the A211 but in production form it was renumbered the A220. The 1967 prototype A211 was driven into seventh place at the Paris 1000 Kms race where it made its debut but although the A220 had stronger suspension, bigger ventilated discs and larger radiator it was no more successful during 1968, their best finish being a third in the Monza 1000 Kms and fourth and sixth in the Paris 1000 Kms, but the Monza place was achieved in the A211.
A good deal of detail re-design work was undertaken for 1969 mainly to improve access to the various components through the complicated space frame, but the water radiators were moved to the tail of the car and the bodywork was redesigned to provide large air intakes behind the doors. Alpine have their own wind tunnel and although their glassfibre bodywork is seldom attractive to look at the cars do not run into the aerodynamic problems of some of their competitors despite a claimed top speed of over 190mph. To help balance the weight of moving the radiators to the extreme rear the oil radiator and battery were moved to the nose of the car. The fuel tanks, mounted in each side of the chassis alongside the driver were changed from aluminium to rubber bag tanks encased in glassfibre housings. The ATE Dunlop discs were changed to Girling and all cars were run with ZF five-speed gearboxes despite the problems this poses with the difficulties of changing gear ratios.
The Alpine team made no serious attempt at the Prototype Championship during 1969, missing the first three races altogether, but at the Monza 1000 Kms, Depailler and Jabouille managed sixth place despite being involved in two accidents. In the Spa 1000 Kms the three-car team suffered various problems as well as being very slow on this fast track and could do no better than seventeenth. On home ground at Le Mans a veritable army of Alpines upheld the honour of France but one by one they dropped out until only a privately owned A210 1,000 cc car was left in the race in twelfth place at the finish.
With the Championship virtually finished by July Alpine had mustered only one point-for their sixth place at Monza.
More Le Mans Cars from the 60ies onwards
wheelbase 7 ft 6 ins
front track 4 ft 5 ins
rear track 4 ft 5.5 ins
height 3 ft 2 ins