AUGUST 15, 2007

Jean Redele

Jean Redele has died at the age of 85. The Frenchman was a key figure in the history of Renault's competition activities and played an important role in bringing the company back to motorsport in the 1950s.

Redele was the son of the Renault concessionaire in the town of Dieppe on France's north coast. After World War II, when Redele was in his mid twenties, he took over the family business from his father. The garage was in ruins following the infamous Allied raid on the town, but Redele was ambitious. In order to promote his business he decided to go racing with a Renault 4CV, which he converted for competition. By 1952 he had set up a conversion business which he called Automobiles Alpine and that year scored his first international success with a class victory on the Mille Miglia. In the finest tradition of the industry, he moved on to build his own prototype car in 1955, based on the 4CV frame and his Alpines were soon enjoying much success in rallying. The success of the Alpine Renaults of the late 1950s and early 1960s encouraged Renault to look at competition again after years when it had done nothing.

Then, in 1964, Alpine turned its attention to single-seaters with a Renault-engined Formula 3 car, designed by Marcel Hubert and Ron Tauranac. That season Henry Grandsire used an Alpine to win the inaugural French F3 Championship and the cars were raced in Formula 2 as well. To begin with Alpine was overshadowed by Matra but in rallying the company went from strength to strength, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1971 with Ove Andersson. That same year Patrick Depailler won the French F3 title for Alpine and the company also turned its attention to sports car racing.

Alpine was taken over by Renault in 1964 but remained much as before with more success in rallying and victory in European Formula 2 Championship with Jean-Pierre Jabouille driving an Elf-badged Alpine car.

Renault then commissioned Alpine to design a Formula 1 prototype chassis. Andre de Cortanze built the Alpine A500 which was used to do a lot of Renault's F1 testing in preparation of the company's entry into F1 in 1977.

At the end of 1976 the Alpine competition department in Dieppe was closed down and the engineering staff were relocated to the new Renault Sport headquarters at Viry Chatillon. The Alpine name lived on in sportscar racing until 1978 when Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi won the classic Le Mans 24 Hours but afterwards could only be found in road cars.

Redele left the firm in 1978.