For one hundred years, the 24 hours of Le Mans has been one of the most prestigious and rigorous tests of endurance in motorsport. Many things have changed since then: the cars, the rules, and most of the teams, but the challenge to survive 24 hours of non-stop racing remains ever-present. Making it to the end is a victory in itself, which makes winning the race an even more impressive achievement.
This year’s race was a special one in many regards. For one, it was the legendary event’s centenary. Corvette Racing concluded its 25th and final year participating at the event by winning its class, and there was even a NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro running the course. But by the end, all names were fixed on one team: Ferrari.
Ferrari hasn’t returned to Le Mans in 50 years. Ferrari hasn’t won Le Mans in nearly 60. This year, it did both.
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The famed Italian sports car manufacturer fielded two cars in the new Hypercar category, the fastest class of cars that run the race along with two others that have comparatively lesser degrees of performance. Ferrari’s #51 499P car crossed the finish line with just over a minute’s lead on rival and five-time Le Mans winners Toyota.
Built on a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, the #51 car was one of two that Ferrari fielded. Both were powered by a hybrid system made up of a 3.0-liter V6 engine married to a 900 V battery and a 200kW electric motor on the front axle. In total this gave the race cars 939 horsepower to propel them, with drivers Antonio Giovinazzi, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi piloting #51 to victory.
It’s a significant win for a legacy sports car maker who has had a tough time in motorsport of late. Ask anyone what brand has been the most important to racing history, and Ferrari will be the answer 90 percent of the time. Founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929, the racing team has been a presence in every major racing discipline, including Formula 1. Though the oldest and most successful team in the sport, historically speaking, the current F1 team has been overshadowed by competitors Mercedes-AMG and Red Bull Racing in recent years.
This Le Mans win is a boon for a legacy brand that’s got something to prove. Ferrari sees itself as the best in the business, and regardless of that being true or not, it impacts racing and the car wold as a whole with everything it does. This is most exemplified by the story behind “Ford vs Ferrari,” the battle to give Ferrari a black eye after a failed partnership, leading to the development of the Ford GT40, one of the most celebrated American race cars in history.
Winning this weekend could mark a sea change for Scuderia Ferrari, one that puts them back on the path to the top. It may take yet longer, but in the spirit of Le Mans, if Ferrari has proven it’s the best at anything, it’s endurance.
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