Former Toyota factory driver Nicolas Lapierre will return to the top class of the World Endurance Championship with Alpine in 2021.
The Frenchman, 36, has rejoined the French Signatech team to race its Alpine-Gibson A480 LMP1 car in the Hypercar class of this season’s six-round WEC, having previously driven for the squad in 2016-19.
Lapierre was announced by Alpine for its return to the pinnacle of sportscar racing for the first time in more than 40 years on Tuesday alongside fellow countryman Matthieu Vaxiviere.
They will share the ORECA-developed LMP1 car that raced as the Rebellion R-13 in the WEC in 2018/19 and 2019/20 with team regular Andre Negrao, who was confirmed in the car on the publication of the series entry list last week.
Lapierre, who drove for Toyota in 2012-14 and again for two races in 2017, left Signatech after the 2018/19 season to join Cool Racing for its maiden WEC campaign.
He will stay with the French entrant, whose programme is now run by the CLX Motorsport operation he co-owns, in the 2021 European Le Mans Series.
Philippe Sinault, principal of the team that will race under the the Alpine Elf Matmut banner, said: “Our choice fell on drivers who complement each other in terms of experience and whose personality must guarantee a spirit of cohesion in all circumstances.
“I can assure you that our three drivers are motivated like never before to make the Alpine colours shine from the first laps of the A480 in the WEC.”
Lapierre, who took three LMP2 class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours aboard Alpine-badged ORECAs run by Signatech, added: “I am very happy that Alpine has decided to enter the top category of the WEC.
“The Alpine team is a family with whom I have achieved great success, and I have no worries that Philippe Sinault and the members of his team will be able to prepare a car that will allow us to play a leading role from the very first races of the season.”
Vaxiviere joins Signatech after competing against the team in the WEC with the TDS Racing LMP2 squad in 2017 and 2018/19.
He returns full time to the series after a year in 2020 of sporadic appearances, which includes a one-off at Le Mans with Panis Racing.
The 26-year-old said that driving for Alpine “is a high source of motivation for me”.
Negrao has been an Alpine driver with Signatech since 2017.
The Brazilian won Le Mans together with Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet in both editions of the race on the 2018/19 superseason schedule.
Signatech will go up against the new breed of Le Mans Hypercars in 2021 under rules that allow the former generation of top-class cars in the WEC to be grandfathered.
The Alpine will be pegged back under the Balance of Performance rules to equate it with the new LMH machinery from Toyota and Glickenhaus.