In 1955, Jean Rédélé named his new sports car company Alpine in tribute to the successes he had scored in the Alpine Rally driving his highly modified Renaults.
Rather embarrassingly, its cars then repeatedly failed to win the famous race up in the mountains of southern France, usually due to a mechanical issue.
It seems this monkey on Alpine’s back rather bothered it, because five factory-prepared A110s were among no fewer than 13 Alpine entries for the 1968 event, amid a strong cohort of Renault-Gordini 8s, Ford Escorts, Lancia Fulvia Coupés, Daf 55s, Alfa Romeo GTAs, Porsche 911s and more (including a “simply hideous” truncated Citroën DS and, bizarrely, a Vauxhall Ventora), if no Mini Coopers.
Many had accidents in the heavy rain and fog that descended over the first leg and several suffered failures, such that just 25 of 64 survived the 845 miles up from Marseille to Aix-les-Bains, with three Alpines splitting two Alfas up front.
Only 16 returned to Aix that night, after 520 miles on a mountain loop, again made treacherous by wet and grey weather. Now an Alpine led from a Lancia and an Alfa.
The third and final leg was 955 miles back down to Antibes, but the focus was on the fight between René Trautmann and Jean-Louis Barailler, separated by just 15sec, as Jean Vinatier was already 11 minutes down the road. And in glorious sunshine, he cruised home to atone for previous years’ terrible disappointments.