When people think of the sport of Rallying, there’s a lot of cars that come to mind pretty much straight away. Think of the Audi Quattro S1 or even the Grp. A Escort Cosworth for instance and you have a very good line up of successful rally cars coming to mind. With a lot of people reminiscing over Group B and also Group A, it’s fair to say that there are a few fairly forgotten rally cars around the place and one of them is the original Alpine A110.
If you go back about 20 years before the birth of Group B and it’s craziness, the sport of Rallying was very different. For a start, the power levels were way more manageable, the teams were smaller and the cars were pretty much along the lines of ‘Race on Sunday, Buy on Monday’. Cars included were the original Mini Cooper ‘S’, the MK1 Escort Mexico’s as well as the Lancia Fulvia. Mixed in with those beautiful lot was the Alpine A110.
So what was so special about the Alpine then? Well for a start it was incredibly lightweight, weighing in at a lowly 706kg it was a good bit lighter than the Fulvia and the Escort MK1. Add in the small tuned Renault & Lotus-powered engines powering it, it was a force to be reckoned with. The best part though was its engine layout, even though the engines were small, they were hanging right over the back wheels in an RR (Rear Engined, Rear-Wheel-Drive) setup and this made it an absolute hoot to drive as well as very nippy through corners. due to the low weight over the front end, turn-in was crisp and due to the small size, it was unbelievably agile.
Power was also one of its good points as well, starting with a lowly 55bhp from the start, this was soon upped to 140bhp in later models which made it quick as well. You have to remember that while 140bhp may not sound like much these days, in the ’60s & ’70s rallying scene this was rather good, in comparison, a Mini Cooper ‘S’ from the same period only had about 70bhp. Add in the lightness and that amount of power made it a rocket.
While on the subject of lightness, the Alpine was made entirely of fiberglass while the chassis was a steel backbone affair. This was unseen on a rally car before simply due to the cost of materials. Compared to the rest of the competition that mainly used steel construction and steel bodies, the A110 was exotic in a way even though its underpinnings were from Renaults.
While aerodynamics isn’t exactly the be-all and end-all of rallying, you do need aerodynamics to a certain extent for the faster courses and this was where the A110 came into its own. unlike its rivals, the alpine was a properly curvy coupé with a teardrop-like design to it and this made it significantly more aerodynamic than anything at the time.
With a car as advanced as the Alpine was at the time, it was no surprise that it dominated the rally scene for a good significant amount of years, in fact in 1973 alone it won 6 rallies including the treacherous and difficult Monaco Rallye. the only car to come close was the humble Mini Cooper ‘S’. It was the first-ever car to win the World Rally Championship in 1973 making the Alpine Works Team the first-ever World Rally Champions. During the early 70’s nothing could touch the Alpine for dust. in fact it took it’s rivals a good few years to come out with something as successful.
With the original Alpine being so good at what it did and being loved the world over in the process, Renault decided to bring back the Alpine name in 2017 and go about creating a new-age car to hark back to the original. In late 2017 the new A110 was revealed and quickly afterwards put into production where it got a reputation for being a very good left-field rival to the likes of the Alfa Romeo 4C and the Porsche Cayman 718.
Even though the new car harks back to the original, everything has been modified and dialled in to make it as competitive as possible. Powering it is a 1.8T 4-cylinder unit with 4-valves per cylinder created by Renault-Nissan and then tuned by Alpine themselves to create a power output of 250bhp and 320nm of torque, this means it can do the 0-60 dash in a very respectable 4.5 seconds and with thanks to a 7-speed DCT it can go onto a top speed of 155mph limited.
In October of 2017, the new A110 cup was released and this was the return to racing for Alpine, unveiled as a track-only variant of the car it shares the same chassis as the road car but modified so it can include a roll cage, adjustable suspension and race brakes. On top of that, power was upped to 270bhp and the gearbox was replaced with a bespoke racing sequential gearbox and also new Michelin racing tires were fitted as well. Prices for the Cup variant started at €100,000 each.
In 2018, Alpine came back and released the GT4 version of the Alpine Cup, power is upped again and now the car has benefitted from added aerodynamics which includes an aggressive front splitter and large rear wing. customers of the already existing Cup could go to Alpine and get their cars upgraded to GT4 spec for a small fee if so wanted. Testing for the GT4 began in late 2018 so people could get used to the car before the 2019 season began, this gave both the drivers & the teams associated time to dial the car in for competitive use.
With the original Alpine A110 being nearly 60 years old, it is now wonder that in that time it has gained many a fan in both the rallying scene, the classic car scene and now with the modern variant, the sports car scene. Motorsport has always been in Alpines blood and with the Alpine A110, it cemented them as a very serious contender to larger rivals and with many a rally win under its belt, it has been able to hold its own and is now officially up there with the best.
Hope You Enjoy!
By Alex Jebson