Deprived of Formula 1 success with our Ferrari team, will the Le Mans 24-Hour provide respite for us long suffering Tifosi? Maybe!
It’s a pretty devastating time to be Tifosi right now. But then every cloud has a silver lining. So, let’s forget our faltering Formula 1 effort for a while and consider perhaps Ferrari’s better racing effort this year.
Ferrari returns to Le Mans for its first frontline effort at the 24 Hour in a little more than two weeks’ time. That’s huge news. Far better than Formula 1 right now, that’s for sure!
Having come back with a pair of all-new 499Ps, Ferrari has already hit the ground running so far in the 2023 World Endurance Championship. Sure, Toyota ultimately dominated, but with five successful years at Le Mans and even more in the WEC behind them, that’s to be expected.
Ferrari has already surprised the WEC
Behind the Japanese WEC veterans however, it’s all been about the rookie Ferrari team. Antonio Fuoco even put the number 50 499P he shares with Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen on pole ahead of the mighty Gazoo Toyotas, for the second round Portimão 6 Hour. A second pole was only denied by a track limits penalty at Spa.
The 50 ended third at the Sebring season opener and second in Portugal, while number 51 driven by James Calado sharing with Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi, chased the Porsche down to steal a stunning podium third at Spa. Ferrari sits second in the WEC Manufacturers Championship on the Road to Le Mans. Behind only Toyota.
So, what chance a comeback Le Mans victory? Well, the odds are a bit long, but this is racing and nothing is impossible. And of course, it’s not only Toyota, but also Porsche, Cadillac, Peugeot, and exotics Glickenhaus and Vanwall to deal with in the 24 Hours. Stranger things have happened, so a passionate wager wouldn’t be a bad bet!
There’s good reason for that number 50
There’s good reason why the lead Ferrari 499Ps races with the number 50. It’s fifty years since Maranello’s last Le Mans entry. 499P is powered by a Ferrari 296 derived 3-litre biturbo V6 turning the rear wheels via a sequential 7-speed gearbox. It is backed by 200 kW motor-generator on the front axle powered by a 900 V battery hybrid energy recovery system.
Being a Hypercar, the 499P uses a bespoke Ferrari ERS rather than the regulation LMDh system that some rivals use. The hybrid electric motor generator both drives the front wheels to deliver electric all-wheel drive on demand, or acts as a generator to charge the battery under braking. The motor can power the car to the regulation electric 120 km/h.
Built around a cutting-edge carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, the engine acts as a fully stressed member. The 499P has the brake-by-wire system necessary to harvest kinetic energy via the front axle under braking. The car’s ERS hybrid system was purpose-built for the race car using Ferrari’s extensive Formula 1 know-how.
Ferrari has some big WEC shoes to fill
The 499P of course has some big shoes to fill. Ferrari enjoyed huge World Sportscar Championship success over the years. It took that title no less than 13 times until the early 1970s. Ferraris not only won the Le Mans 24 Hours nine times, but also the Mille Miglia eight times, Targa Florio seven times, all along in parallel with its Formula 1 effort.
Disenchanted with his team’s Formula 1 effort, Enzo Ferrari however cancelled his sportscar program after 1973. The series itself declined only to later be resurrected as today’s World Endurance Championship. Now Ferrari returned to the WEC at the beginning of 2023 with its in-house developed 499Ps. Run by successful Italian Ferrari endurance racing team AF Corse.
So, while Formula 1 may be too painful for us Tifosi to properly contemplate right now, there’s another Ferrari team poised to bring joy to millions of us deprived Maranello fans. And with some recent rules tweaks, like tyre warmers being allowed again from the next race, that may just play into Ferrari’s hands at Le Mans.
So, what chance a Ferrari comeback 24 Hour victory? All we can do is cheer it on because there is a better chance they win the legendary endurance race on 10-11 June than the Scuderia scores a podium, let alone a win, on our home soil at Imola this Sunday. See you at Le Mans!