FERRARI – A LE MANS HISTORY?
Ferrari officially announced recently, that they are returning to the World Endurance Championships in 2023, in sports car prototype racing , which includes the 24hr Le Mans hyper-car class.
As 2023 is upon us, and another golden era of endurance racing is around the corner, we thought it a good idea to look back at the history of Ferrari at Le Mans.
This year, Ferrari, with their brand new 499p hyper-car will make an effort to dominate the top tier contesters and aim to win the most coveted price, the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Ferrari began competing in endurance racing in 1949, the company was just 2 years old and Enzo Ferrari was in his early 50’s.
It traces his roots back to 1929, when Enzo founded the Scuderia Ferrari Racing Team, under the banner of Alfa Romea, for whom he worked.
They had many racing successes between the two World Wars, although the team, and cars, were branded Alfa Romeao, in cars like the 8C-2300 and Tipo B.
Endurance racing rules, at that time, stated that only two drivers were allowed to drive the car for the duration of the 24hr race.
There was no rule as to the length of each drivers stint, however.
It wasn’t until 1977 when the rule was significantly changed to allow three drivers and with specific time restrictions.
After the end of World War 2, Enzo was out of contractual obligations with Alfa, and wanted to compete in long distance and endurance races, under the newly formed Ferrari Name.
He kicked off his dreams of winning with the 166mm Barchetta, in 1948.
The 166 was first entered in the most famous long-distance race of the time, the Mille Miglia, a 1000 mile race around the towns of northern Italy.
Ferrari had their first overall win at Le Mans, with the 166, in 1949.
The car was raced by Luigi Chinetti and Peter Michell- Thomson.
The formation of the World Sports Car Championship in 1953 changed the motorsport landscape forever.
Teams like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar began to enter multiple factory backed cars (or works cars) to compete for overall wins.
The next win for Ferrari, came in 1954.
The car was the 375 Plus, driven by Jose Froila n Gonza lez and Maurice Trintignant.
In 1958, Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill delivered Ferraris next win in the 250TR58.
Ferrari lost out in 1959 to the Ecurie Ecosse team, fielding a Jaguar D-Type driven by Ivor Bueb and Ron Flockhart.
Ferrari bounced back in 1960, winning that year and the next 5, in cars such as the Ferrari 330 TR/LM Spyder, 250 P, 275 P and the iconic 250 LM.
1966 saw the start of the infamous battle with Ford and their GT40.
Ford would go on to win the next 3 years in succession and Ferrari sadly pulled the plug on the works team in 1973.
Many privately entered Ferrari’s have won multiple WEC races but the pinnacle “24hr Le Mans overall race win” has since eluded them.
In late 2022, Ferrari also debuted the 296GT3 to replace the 488 GTE race car, although this is only likely to compete in in the 2024 season.
Ferrari has had multiple successes with the current GTE car in the WEC, but despite that, they had not claimed an overall victory at Le Mans, for over 50 years.
Ferrari is one of the top three manufacturers in the world to hold multiple Le Mans Overall victories. Porsche remains number one, with 19 wins, and Audi is second with 13 overall wins.
Ferrari currently has 9 overall wins, ending after 16 years when Ford killed their dominant run in 1966.
So, to 2023. Ferrari have now launched and entered their first works team car since 1965, the 499P, and just like in the 60’, their aim is to re-establish the famous prancing horse as the team to beat.