Gounon replaces Habsburg for Alpine Hypercar debut at Imola’s WEC round

The two-time GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup title winner with Mercedes takes Habsburg’s seat in the French manufacturer’s #35 A424 LMDh alongside Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup in his role as official reserve for the Signatech-run Alpine Endurance Team.

Habsburg has been ruled out for at least the second round of the 2024 WEC after sustaining two fractured vertebrae during an endurance test with Alpine at the Aragon ciruit at the end of March.

Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault said: “It’s never easy to make your debut in such a context, but Jules was identified, selected and signed to fill this role, even though we never imagined it would happen so early like this.

“He’s fundamentally ready but still has much to learn, even if he has already demonstrated his mastery of several aspects, given his track record in GT [racing].

“We honed his preparation during our latest tests with his six team-mates and then in the simulator to prepare him for all our processes.”

Sinault added that Habsburg would “be in our minds” and that his absence is “a hard blow”.

Alpine has given no indication of whether Habsburg will be fit in time for round three of the WEC at Spa on 11 May.

The two fractured lumbar vertebrae were sustained when Habsburg crashed at Turn 7 at MotorLand Aragon for reasons that have so far not been disclosed by Alpine.

#35 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Paul-Loup Chatin, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

#35 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Paul-Loup Chatin, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The injuries were only diagnosed after Habsburg had returned to his native Austria, despite undergoing checks in the local hospital in Alcaniz.

Gounon, 29, has been a factory sportscar driver since he began a three-year stint at Bentley prior to joining the Mercedes-AMG GT3 roster in 2021.

But Imola will be his first race at the wheel of a prototype.

Alpine said in its pre-race statement that its mission over the weekend of the Imola 6 Hours will be “to gather as much data as possible”.

“Our goal at Imola is to continue our learning process to be increasingly ready and gain momentum for the forthcoming races,” explained Sinault.

“We’ll discover a circuit quite different from what we’ve experienced since the first runs of the A424.”

Habsburg, Milesi and Chatin took points for Alpine on the debut of the A424 developed in conjunction with French constructor ORECA in the Qatar 1812Km at the beginning of March.

Source link