The colors of dawn penetrate through the narrow streets of the Principality of Monaco, when the city awakens to the sound of a familiar sound over the hills of the Cote d’Azur. Fifty years after the historic first success at the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally, lhe Alpine A110 returns to travel the same roads that saw it as the winner in the most famous rally competition in the world. At the wheel of the car of the Dieppe house sits an emerging face of the contemporary motoring scene, the nineteen year old David Vidales, Prema driver in the Formula Regional by Alpine, outlining a contrast with the historical significance of the A110 which at the same time enhances the continuity between past and present.
Admiring the Alpine A110 parading through iconic points such as Loews, Tabaccaio and Rascasse with the Grand Prix stands in the background, and then climbing the hills surrounding the Principality arouses unique emotions. Even more than from a description in words, the emotional and evocative power inherent in the A110 shines directly from the smile that spontaneously appears on Vidales’s face as soon as he grabs the steering wheel. “It’s a unique experience”, comments David after the first approach. “Of course you smile when you drive this car through the streets of Munich or when you hear the noise of this engine and change gears. It’s something that doesn’t happen every day. To think that they drove this car here fifty years ago, also winning the Monte Carlo Rally, arouses extraordinary emotions ”.
The Alpine A110 won its first historic success in Monte Carlo in 1971 with the Andersson-Nash duo, replicated in ’73 with Jean-Claude Andruet at the wheel, an edition in which Alpine monopolized the first three steps of the podium. In 1973 the A110 also won the constructors’ world championship, thus imprinting the name of Alpine in the history of the off-road world championship. Fifty years later the car still attracts the glances of passers-by, attracted by the extreme characteristics summarized in part in the first name. The A110 abbreviation in fact refers to the height of the body at the highest point, an element that highlights the purely sporting nature of Alpine.
To fully understand the design audacity of the A110 it is necessary to sit directly in the driver’s seat, an action in itself difficult due to the extreme proximity of the seat to the ground. The engine housing in the rear compartment frees up the space needed to advance the driver’s seat, to the point where it collides with the bulky front wheels. To remedy the problem without compromising the weight distribution and the dynamic qualities of the car, the A110 is fitted with a pedals offset transversely with respect to the steering wheel, thus forcing the driver to assume a posture with the legs bent to the right towards the center. The unnatural driving position further enhances the audacity and skills of the drivers of the time, able to push the A110 to the limit on dirt, snowy and icy surfaces.
The static impressions are accompanied by the driving sensations told directly by those who brought the Alpine A110 back to the streets of Monte Carlo: “I think it’s still a car with four tires and an engine, but it clearly has different components from those of today, especially the brake”, explains Vidales. “At first when you step on the pedal it seems like the car is not braking, so you have to apply a little more pressure and it’s all a bit delayed. At the same time though you feel it is a racing car. For example, when you accelerate and then take your foot off the gas the car crashes immediately, you feel that it is a competition engine. The nice thing about this car is that it is very light ”.
“Another difference with today’s cars is the steering, which is much harder and you really feel it. The same goes for the gearbox, which is manual with the clutch. It’s a synchromesh gearbox, so you don’t need to double to get into gear, but still it requires that hand, that delicacy when you change, playing a little with the accelerator, all those things that knowing how to do them is an art. It is truly incredible ”.
For the fiftieth anniversary of the 1971 success, the historic A110 is accompanied by its modern counterpart in Montecarlo, underlining the continuity between Alpine’s past and present. The contemporary car in Munich belongs to a special edition of only 1955, a number chosen to commemorate the year of the foundation of the Dieppe house. The A110 of the third millennium retains the sporting character of its ancestor, while adopting modern solutions and technologies. The turbocharged 1.8-liter engine releases 252 horsepower which, related to the total mass of just under 1100 kg, outline a power-to-weight ratio similar to that of the triumphant car in the 1970s. The lever and clutch gearbox has also been updated with a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission with double clutch that can be activated from the paddles behind the steering wheel.
The presence of the A110 of the third millennium enhances Alpine’s present and the desire to pursue new sporting successes, as suggested by the various competitive programs of the Dieppe house. All ‘commitment in Formula 1 goes with it the adventure in the WEC in the Hypercar class currently limited to 2021, pending the decision on the possible construction of a prototype to continue chasing the encore of the success at Le Mans won in 1978 with the A442.
On the other hand, the original A110 underlines the historical importance of Alpine and its importance for the motorsport heritage. The success in the 1973 world rally in particular acquires further importance considering that among the rivals there were giants such as Lancia, Toyota, Audi, Peugeot, Fiat and Ford. The calendar also included appointments of the caliber of Sanremo, Acropolis, 1000 Laghi and Safari Rally.
The emotions experienced by a young man such as David Vidales, born thirty years later but equally captivated by the charm of the A110, are the best evidence of Alpine’s historical relevance: “I have never closely followed rallies, I have been more focused on the track and other types of competitions, but they are incredible and legendary cars that any person knows even without having followed the discipline. The fact that Alpine won the constructors’ championship against other manufacturers such as Lancia makes us understand what this car was in those days and what Alpine managed to do in rallies. something incredible that remains in history as an extraordinary undertaking “.