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MAY 16, 2002

Happy birthday Jean Redele!

JEAN REDALE, the founder of Alpine - one of the key players in bringing Renault into frontline motor racing, celebrates his 80th birthday tomorrow. The Renault company started with a solid sporting involvement (including victory in the race which is also said to have been the first "Grand Prix" at Le Mans in 1906) but after 1909 Renault ceased to be involved in any competition activities. During World War II the company produced armored vehicles for the Germans and this led to the arrest of Louis Renault and the takeover of the company by the French government. One of the first cars built after the war was the Renault 4CV, conceived as a small inexpensive car for the austere post-war era.

Redele was the son of a Renault dealer in Dieppe who converted the 4CV into a racing machine and began to compete in races and rallies. In 1951 he established Automobiles Alpine and scored his first notable international success with class victory on the Mille Miglia in 1952.

In years that followed Redele used the 4CV frame to make prototype sports cars and gradually he convinced Renault to back his Alpine models in racing and rallying.

In 1964 Redele built the first Renault-engined single-seater cars for the French Formula 3 series and Henry Grandsire used one to win the inaugural French F3 title. Mauro Bianchi drove one to third place at Monaco and, in Formula 2 spec, they were raced by Bianchi, Jose Rosinski and Jean Vinatier. The company built an F1 prototype in 1969 but it was never raced. Rallying became the focus for some years and an Alpine won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1971.

When Matra began to wind down its single-seater operations, Alpine increased its activities with the backing of Elf and in 1971 Patrick Depailler won the French F3 title in an Alpine. The company trained many famous racing names, notably designer Andre de Cortanze and engine builder Bernard Dudot.

Alpine won the World Rally Championship in 1973 and soon afterwards was absorbed into Renault along with the Gordini engine company. The two formed the basis of Renault Sport. Alpine cars won the European Formula 2 title in 1976 and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1978 and it was Alpine which build the first Renault F1 chassis in which to test the turbocharged engines.

In a world which lives for the moment, the exploits of men like Redele have faded in recent times but without him there might never have been a Renault involvement in F1.