The Alpine A110: a rally legend’s triumphs and tribulations

alpine renault a110

It all began with a 28-year-old man from Normandy, whose passion for racing transcended mere hobby. As a Renault dealer, he understood the symbiotic relationship between motorsport success and commercial triumph. Thus, he embarked on a daring journey, entering the novel economy saloon into the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally with a simple yet profound belief.

In the annals of motorsport history, there are tales of daring drivers, iconic cars, and the relentless pursuit of victory. Among these legends, the story of the Alpine A110 stands as a testament to innovation, determination, and the thrill of competition.

It all began with a 28-year-old man from Normandy, whose passion for racing transcended mere hobby. As a Renault dealer, he understood the symbiotic relationship between motorsport success and commercial triumph. Thus, he embarked on a daring journey, entering the novel economy saloon into the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally with a simple yet profound belief: “Racing is the best way to test production cars, and victory is the best sales tool.”

His name was Rédélé, and his victory at just his second attempt ignited a spark that would fuel Alpine’s ascent to greatness. Recognizing the potential of Renault parts, he forged ahead, creating sports cars that would soon become synonymous with excellence on the track.

Fast forward two decades, and Alpine emerged as a formidable force in motorsport circles, clinching victories in French national rallies, hillclimb events, and major foreign circuit races. At the heart of this success was the Alpine A110, a miniature ‘berlinette’ introduced in 1962 and continually refined to perfection.

When the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) established the International Championship for Manufacturers (IMS), Alpine seized the opportunity with unwavering determination. The A110’s stellar performance propelled the team to second place in the inaugural 1970 season, narrowly losing to the Porsche 911.

Autocar, ever the chronicler of automotive prowess, was granted a rare opportunity to test a semi-works A110 1600 S. The experience was nothing short of exhilarating, as the car’s monstrous chortle echoed through the test track. With 154bhp at its disposal, the A110 exhibited prowess and precision, its rack-and-pinion steering delivering delightful accuracy.

Despite its rear heaviness and propensity for tail slides, the A110’s traction and handling prowess were unmatched. On slippery surfaces, it danced with the finesse of a seasoned performer, defying the laws of physics with every twist and turn.

The year 1971 marked a watershed moment for Alpine, as they clinched the IMC title and paved the way for further triumphs. In 1973, they secured the inaugural World Rally Championship, cementing their status as legends of the sport.

Yet, as the years passed, the landscape of rallying evolved, demanding innovations like four-wheel drive for success. The Alpine A110, with its rear-wheel-drive configuration, became a relic of a bygone era, a testament to a time when bravery and skill were the true measures of a champion.

Today, the legacy of the Alpine A110 lives on, cherished by enthusiasts and historians alike. Its victories, though distant echoes in the annals of time, serve as a reminder of the indomitable spirit of those who dare to push the limits of possibility.

As we reflect on its triumphs and tribulations, one thing remains abundantly clear: the Alpine A110 will forever hold a special place in the pantheon of motorsport history, a timeless symbol of passion, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence.