Halfway into the premiere season of the Alpine Europa Cup, Pierre Sancinéna has established himself comfortably atop the championship standings. With four victories, the Norman is well on his way to his first motorsports championship title.
For the driver born in Rouen, racing the Alpine A110 Cup is more than just a sport. As an engineer at Renault Sport he’s seen the Alpine A110 Cup come alive and made his own modest contribution to the development of the cup racer.
“In 2015 I joined Renault for my final internship to become an engineer,” Pierre Sancinéna says.
“There I worked for the competition side of the company, working on the Renault Sport R.S. 01—an amazing car. After that I worked in Formula Renault 2.0 just as an engineer. Last year I joined Renault Sport Cars, which is slightly different from Renault Sport Racing, working on aerodynamics doing things such as wind tunnel and on-track testing.
“I’m very happy to be a part of this company. It’s fantastic to be able to race the Alpine: every day I’m working on the road car and now I have the chance to race with the racing car.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage to be an engineer, but it’s definitely a motivation. This is the car I see everyday in the workshop and on my computer screen, that I do calculations on in the wind tunnel, et cetera. Being able to race this car is a big motivation.”
Although the first race weekend of the Alpine Europa Cup saw several odd retirements—some caused simply by fuel miscalculations—overall the Alpine A110 Cup is proven to be a rather reliable little beast.
“The Cup and the street version differ a lot, there are a lot of different parts on each car: different brakes and suspension, a bit more powerful engine, and the car has been strengthened all over,” Sancinéna sums up.
“It’s quite a big task for Signatech, but they’re doing a good job with this car. We haven’t had many technical issues with this new car, which is usually always a problem for new series. We don’t have many retirements in the races, which is good. At Paul Ricard, in the first race some people ran out of gas. In the second race I was on pole and had a problem with the gear shifter. That was problematic and I lost the race.”
As the unofficial standard-bearer for Renault Sport in the Alpine Europa Cup, Sancinéna can also count on his colleagues’ support at Renault Sport Cars’ headquarters in Les Ulis.
“Wearing the ‘A’ of Alpine on my racing suit makes me really proud, it’s a big honour. I was so happy and proud to win the first race of the new championship and scoring the first two pole positions. When I came back to the company on Monday, everyone was congratulating me. That was a new experience for me. I’ve raced for many years but to be part of the company in this way and be able to race the car the companies has worked on for years makes me so happy.
“You don’t get to do something like this every season so I’m just enjoying it a lot, do my best and give everything every moment I’m in the car. The pleasure I get from driving it are translated into the results.”
With Pierre Sancinéna and Vincent Beltoise, Classic & Modern Racing has the two front-runners for the championship in its fold: both drivers are first and second in the championship and have won five out of eight races amongst each other.
One of the reasons the Charles-Antoine Bourachot-led team is as successful as it is, Sancinéna thinks, is its close relationship with Alpine.
“CMR has been given Alpine’s trust: they’re running the first two Alpine A110 GT4s in the French and European GT-championships and work together closely with Alpine. CMR has done some work with them before. I think this proximity helps a lot to get to the front.
“But, regardless of this, they’re also a very good team who work very professional and have very skilled mechanics. Joining this team has helped me boost my confidence.
“They’ve done well in the past and I think they will do well in the future as well—hopefully with me!”
The first step towards success has already been made as Sancinéna’s four Alpine Europa Cup wins have put him solidly in the championship lead—along with the Alpine GT4’s first win in French GT just last week.
With four races left—Spa-Francorchamps and Barcelona—he’ll have to hold off amongst other his team-mate Beltoise, who’s training at just over one race win.
“Of course, I’m thinking about the title, but I try not to think about it too much. I’m looking at it race by race and don’t put more pressure on myself than normally. I’m driving as I did at the beginning of the season and before. For now, it’s going well and hopefully we can maintain this in the races to come.”
Photos by Miguel Bosch.