From the archive: We try to tame an Alpine A110 rally car


“Its performance is undoubted. The four-cylinder pushrod engine is basically the Renault 16 TS unit but somewhat modified – bigger inlet valves with 0.3in lift, very different valve timing, an 11.25 compression ratio and two big Weber carburettors. It shows 154bhp at 6800rpm on the brake, with 125lb ft at 5300rpm [over 83bhp and 87lb ft in the R16].”

Mechanical sympathy stopped us from slipping the clutch and revving high for the best times, but “as it was, 60mph came up in 8.8sec and 100mph in 27.1sec – pretty creditable times for a 1.6”.

“Driven normally [rather than always sideways], one finds the Alpine’s rack-and-pinion steering delightfully accurate and pretty high-geared, with [it] possessed of surprisingly good straight stability.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that the ride is remarkably good, particularly for a rally car, although wheel movements do not look small. They are not small enough to avoid changes of camber on cornering hard on dry Tarmac, so that, coupled with the rear heaviness, the tail will go out most dramatically if you lift off at all.

Go in to the bend fairly fast, then apply power and the car stays virtually dead neutral assuming you’re still on [quality Tarmac].

Turn into a slippery side road reasonably modestly and apply power and such is the tremendous traction of the loudly clonking limited-slip diff rear that you can easily break away the front tyres momentarily.

“I can imagine that, on loose stuff where niceties of tyre angle to road surface are largely immaterial, because the surface is never drawing board-even, a brave man can do largely what he wants: use the traction, which has certainly been the Alpine’s great advantage in snowy rallies, or tail-slide to choice.

“Having played with this one in the wide-open spaces of MIRA and found it all too easy to slide but not so easy to slide exactly where you want, I think Alpine drivers are braver than most rally types.”

Thankfully for them, bravery equalled success rather than disaster, as Alpine won the 1971 IMC title – and the first World Rally Championship of 1973.



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