Well here’s one nobody saw coming: Ferrari will fight for the overall win at Le Mans with a full-on hypercar program beginning in 2023. The Italian automaker confirmed the news this morning.
Ferrari has reportedly flirted with the idea of a top-flight sports car racing program for a very long time, even dating back to the outgoing hybrid Le Mans Prototype specification that Toyota, Porsche and Audi formerly competed in. But the rumors have swirled for so long they became difficult to take seriously. Although Ferrari said last year that it was actively considering a future prototype entry, many assumed it’d go the cheaper LMDh route, as Porsche and Audi are already doing.
But no — Ferrari is going with the expensive and more bespoke LMH plan, like Toyota, Peugeot, ByKolles and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus. Last August, Ferrari’s Antonello Coletta told Autosport that it was imperative the brand enter with a car that was truly its own. “Having our own chassis is a must,” Coletta said at the time, “and we will see in the future if it is possible to have a new supercar.”
That plainly wouldn’t have been possible if Ferrari decided to field an LMDh car, as those rules require the use of a standardized chassis from Oreca, Ligier, Dallara or Multimatic. Additionally, whereas LMDh doesn’t require a homologation “link” to a road car, LMH does in some fashion. Ferrari won’t have to build a homologation special a-la Toyota if it doesn’t want to, as Peugeot was evidently able to achieve homologation through its electrification scheme in cars like the 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered. However, it will have to establish some path to its production offerings.
I suppose Ferrari could spin this as a flex on its German rivals if it wanted to. “Sure, we could have taken the easy path and spent a ton less money, but we decided to do something original,” the Scuderia could claim. We’re not quite at that stage of social media interaction among constructors yet, though; Porsche is still in the welcoming phase.
Ferrari’s upcoming prototype will be its first since 1999, the last year of competition for the 333 SP, co-developed with Dallara. But in terms of fully factory-backed programs, it’ll be the Prancing Horse’s first effort since 1973.
The future of top-class endurance racing is looking pretty good, then. While LMH cars like Ferrari’s are not eligible for competition in the IMSA SportsCar Championship here in the States, they will square off with the IMSA-focused LMDh cars in World Endurance Championship rounds, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And when you take stock of all the brands currently in play — Toyota, Peugeot, ByKolles, Glickenhaus, Porsche, Audi, Acura and now Ferrari — the battle for overall glory is looking exciting for the first time in ages.