Merc’s entry-level hot hatch has grown a boot to take on the Audi S3 Saloon
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Alpine A110 GT4 vs Goodwood FoS
Alpine is getting serious about racing. Good. Time to test the 337bhp full GT4 car
Alpine is serious about getting into racing. This is good. The A110 road car is terrific, so proving there’s more to the brand than a single road car (relax: more will follow) and that the lightweight concept can be turned to racing advantage is good news.
There are two tiers to racing Alpines: a Cup car for a one-make series that’s more closely related to the road car (266bhp, still has air con) and then this, the full house GT4 racer.
GT4 racing is very competitive, with cars ranging from the Porsche Cayman and BMW M4 to McLaren 570 and Audi R8. With KTM X-Bows, Ginettas and Chevy Camaros on the grid as well, it’s very diverse. They’re all kept in check by the balance of performance, which means none can exceed a power to weight ratio of 312bhp/ton.
But being light is a good thing – less pressure on tyres, brakes and so on. The Alpine GT4 weighs just 1,080kg – the same as the road car. It’s a proper race car inside, all flim-flam removed, then caged and harnessed. In the back the 1.8-litre four cylinder is boosted by a new turbo, and puts out ‘around 350bhp’. Assuming it hits regs, it should be 337bhp…
Power is fed through a Sadev six-speed sequential, with a floor-hinged foot clutch to get it going. This is more of a challenge than it should be. First is long, and riding the clutch through Goodwood’s paddocks on the way to the hillclimb start makes you sound amateurish. Especially when you stall. That clutch is awkward…
You get the feeling it would be a very friendly and competitive car to race
On the hill it’s much better. The Alpine road car is great because of the way it treads lightly, flows down the road so effortlessly. This, as you can tell by looking at the ride height, isn’t like that. It’s still light, and that means the brakes are awesome, with good bite and massive power (“you need to try them when they’re warm” the car’s usual driver tells me, “they’re amazing”).
So it’s firmer and sharper in its manners. The steering gives you good confidence – quite rare in a lot of modern race cars which have more assistance because they weigh more – and the handling balance feels relatively benign and friendly. There’s enough power, but GT4 cars are much less intimidating than GT3s.
Off the line you can use all the power and then just pull a paddle for the next, and the next. I’d expected the Sadev sequential to shift much more aggressively, but actually it blurs off the sharper edges of the shift, so doesn’t feel that much different to the twin clutcher in the road car.
It is faster, though. You do feel the extra 100bhp or thereabouts in the way it flies up Goodwood’s main straight, pulling fifth gear under the bridge. Tracks straight and true, stops evenly, doesn’t roll or misbehave on the cambers at Molecomb and proceeds to head up the hill very professionally. You get the feeling it would be a very friendly and competitive car to race – its small size and light weight help its agility, it feels naturally well balanced and capable. It’s a fun race car.
No word on what it’ll cost to buy or do a season in, but one neat fact I do like is that if you buy a Alpine Cup racer (current cost, 100,000 euros before tax) you can then choose to upgrade it to a GT4, saving you the expense of buying a whole new car.