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Home arrow Magazine arrow Men arrow Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Alpine
Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Alpine Print E-mail
Written by Auto Passion   

Renault 8 Gordini

I knew several version of it. When we obtain the gearbox 5, it was a great innovation, I believe that only Alfa-Romeo of the time had gearboxes 5. It was as today the cars which have gearboxes 6. In final speed, it was similar, but with less holes between the gear ratios. In road behavior or braking, there was hardly difference between the 1100 and the 1300. As for the protos 1440, then there they was straightforwardly protos Alpine with case R8! The engine made in the 150cv, but not easier to exploit because all was in proportional: lighter body (aluminum frame), better distribution of the masses (radiator to front, as on the Alpine). The power, that isn't a problem, we come out better of the difficult situations.
(Auto Passion # 112)

Alpine A110

What made the force of this car, it was its weight/power ratio, around 650 kg; last group 4, the 1860 DC, had around 185cv, always with 650 to 700 kg, therefore they was cars splendid to drive. All the versions had their charm, and each one corresponded to the best car during a given time. The first that I droved it was the 1150cc, in 1967. An extraordinary car ! Then, the 1300, as those with which I finished 3rd in Monte-Carlo Rally (1970?) behind both official Porsche, and then the 1600 and the the 1800... Each one during time, all was balanced and homogeneous. With the Tour de Corse 1975, with the 1860 Group 4, a formidable car, I finished 2nd with 30 " of Darniche on Lancia Stratos. I should have win but we had made the error to use too small tanks, kind to put 20 liters of gasoline during the long special! But today, like car of the collection, for me, most beautiful Alpine, it would be the 1600S of series, in blue metal, of 1971, 72, without rims nor widened wings. I would like to have one of them. (Auto Passion # 112)
The 1300S was balanced perhaps a little better. The arrival of the R16 engine, heavier and higher, penalized the behavior of the 1600. But, soon, we found the adjustments adapted to the car. The evolution was always progressive and there never was brutal modification, except during the assembly of the large brakes of R16: that was certainly one of the most significant improvements of Berlinette. (Auto-Passion # 40)
Berlinette has to be drove only slippings... but not too much! It is necessary to seek to anticipate unhooking. When the back uncouples, we hold it with the accelerator while against-directing. At the exit, it does not have any more but to gradually give the wheels straight on. When it slips, it is caught up with so easily that it is a play!
It is with 1440 version that we reached competitiveness necessary to undertake an international career. We had then work to develop the 1600. It was a very different engine: exhaust system and admission were reversed, there was more weight with the back. Berlinette 1600 was a truck whereas the 1440 was a bicycle, said one while exaggerating. In fact, we realized throughout the career of Berlinette that the more we give power, the more it was easy to drive. At Monte-Carlo 1973 Rally, the pilots had of the 1800 model with 185cv and did not regret the 1440.
(Auto-Passion # 40)

Alpine A210/220

In my rare experiments in circuit, I made the 24 Heures du Mans 1968 with the proto A210 1000cc with Andruet. We won the Indice de Performances. And the 1969 A220 3 liters models with Jean-Luc Therier. Le Mans race was a part of the contract at Alpine, but I did not go there with enthusiasm. But in 1968, it was very moving for me to be at the start. The race, after events of May 68, had been deferred in september; that meant that night was longer and it had rained a long time. Result, as pilots of rally, on wet and the night, Andruet and me were rather at ease, and the car, with its 1000cc, was not penalized compared to the poweful cars, on the contrary. On wet circuit, one rolled about all similar. It was dangerous, with the still narrow circuit and little released, but that did not raise difficulties to us. In 1969, Therier and me were in a team made up of pilots of circuit: Jabouille, Depailler, of Cortanze, Serpaggi, Mauro Bianchi as adjuster. Cheinisse had wanted that one has one too 3 liters car. Everyone said to us: " Be careful,  to the first turn, do not select the 5th gear, that goes too quickly ". However, the car was very well regulated by these pilots of circuit, so much although that to us posed any problem of piloting, including while passing the 5th. One had made the best time of A220 besides. A220 had a bad reputation but it was not founded, at least for me which did not know other cars of circuit, except that its engine missed power.
(Auto Passion # 112)

Alpine A310

Cars bad-liked? Perhaps: Berlinette had left a memory so strong that it was hard to come after it. The A310 corresponds to a more modern generation, with a new geometry of wheel trains, it holds the road well better than A110, that is very different. They are very precise, like a car of circuit. It is a clean car, whereas Berlinette is very spectacular. I made with A310 4 cylinders a beautiful Monte-Carlo rally, but we didn't carry it at the end of his development, as we had done for Berlinette. The Alpine team in 75, after the departures of Andruet and of Darniche, it was Therier and me. Gerard Larrousse replaced us by Fréquelin and Ragnotti, which continued with the A310 and have sign of beautiful performances, but with V6 which, it, was well developed.
(Auto Passion # 112)

Some others souvenirs

The team of race functioned like a team of today, but with less people.   The organization was limited to Jacques Cheinisse and some mechanics. Compared to what one knows now, the budgets were ridiculous [... ] Of course, we did less private tests than nowadays, and especially, all the racing racing cars were identical. That facilitated the management of the assistance largely! There were no personal adjustments and it was Jean-Luc Therier who carried out the most tests : inhabitant to 30 km of the factory, it was easier for everyone. He determined the ideal adjustments and  all the cars and all the pilots conformed to it. Three versions were envisaged: asphalt (Tour de Corse, Monte-Carlo), ground (RAC, San Remo) and bad ground (Acropolis, Morocco). Each car carried out 2 or 3 rallys, then transformed in test car   or sold. Thus, all both or three tests, we received new cars. One discovered them one or two days before the start, just rather early to make knowledge with them during fifty or hundred kilometers.  The factory prepared the cases whereas the engines were sub-contracted at Marc Mignotet. Engines underwent a complete revision, a true recycling, after each rally.
Compared to competition (Porsche 911, Lancia Stratos, Ford Escort or FIAT Abarth 124 Spider), Berlinette missed power since the best than we had, with the Tour de Corse 1975, did not lay out that of 185cv. It was its principal handicap. But, it was caught up with with its strong points ; agility and reliability. Moreover, we had a team of exceptional assistance [... ] We preferred all Berlinette with the old broken axle rear wheel-axle unit and we continued to use them whereas they were not available any more in series! There was only when we align four cars, as with the Tour de Corse, that A110bis arrived. It was in general Darniche or Larrousse which drived it. All changed with A110bis with rear wheel-axle units triangulated: they understeered...
(Auto-Passion # 40)

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