After a 50-year absence, the iconic Ferrari makes its return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ferrari, the legendary name in motorsport, returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year for the Centenary edition. 50 years after its last appearance in 1973, it has a real chance of victory in the premier class.


Something has been missing from recent editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the famous endurance car race. But Le Mans fans can rejoice: after Peugeot in 2022 and Porsche this year, the Italian Ferrari team is back with a high-flying Hypercar prototype.


Ferrari’s last overall victory came in 1965, in the Prototype category. The following year, the Scuderia lost out to Ford, an event immortalized by Hollywood in the film “Le Mans 66 / Ford versus Ferrari”, released in 2019. After successive failures, the prancing-horse brand finally decided to devote itself solely to Formula 1 racing.



“With the new Le Mans Hypercar program, Ferrari reaffirms its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in major motorsport competitions”, said Ferrari president John Elkann in a statement.


Putting an end to Toyota’s hegemony


Two Ferrari 499Ps will defend the Maranello firm’s red colors at Le Mans, the 4th round of the championship. Ferrari currently occupies 2nd place in the standings, behind Toyota and ahead of Porsche. The Scuderia’s n°50 Hypercar also put in its first performances on Sunday June 4, during the test day. It set the fastest time of 3’30″686, ahead of Peugeot and Hertz Team Jota.



Toyota, the winning manufacturer in the last five editions, is set to face stiff competition.


“Racing is in Ferrari’s genes, and I have no doubt whatsoever that this Hypercar will be extremely competitive on the track”, said FIA World Endurance Championship General Manager Frédéric Lequien.



For Ferrari, winning the legendary Le Mans race on its centenary would be the ideal way to celebrate its comeback, since its first victory dates back to 1949, followed by eight other triumphs.


1949-1965: Ferrari’s golden age at Le Mans


Porsche is the most successful team on the Sarthe circuit, with 19 victories, ahead of Audi’s 13. Ferrari completed the podium with nine successes between 1949 and 1965.



At the 1973 edition of Le Mans, then celebrating its 50th anniversary, Ferrari was beaten by the Matra team, which had already won the previous year in Ferrari’s absence. At the time, Enzo Ferrari had adopted a dual-program strategy, concentrating on both Formula 1 and world endurance racing.


“In 1973, Enzo Ferrari was faced with the choice of doing either Formula 1 or endurance racing, because economically he felt he could no longer do both things at the same time”, sums up Jacky Ickx, six-time winner of the 24 Hours between 1969 and 1982 for Ford, Mirage and Porsche, but never for Ferrari.



Nowadays, thanks to a much more comfortable financial situation, Ferrari has the means to return to endurance racing, while continuing its participation in Formula 1 with drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. But it won’t be the latter who will be taking to the track on Saturday June 10 at 4pm.


Among Ferrari’s crews this year, only Antonio Giovinazzi has taken part in Formula 1 races. The other team members, such as Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado, are endurance specialists.



Featured photo : © 24 Heures du Mans

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