Ferrari has been competing in endurance racing for a real long time. Hollywood made a film about it and all, but its last outright win was in 1965 with an American customer team. Since then, the manufacturer from Maranello has had success with GT cars but never got back on that top step of all top steps, despite having several prototype entries. Now, though, Ferrari has announced a return to endurance racing's top class for 2023.
The Hypercar class right now is a little bit odd. It's horsepower-limited compared to the LMP1 category it theoretically replaces at a maximum combined hybrid output of 784 hp (Toyota's hybrid LMP1 entries were pulling 1,000 hp). There's also been a revolving door of manufacturers supportively saying they were 100 percent down to race and then refocusing their efforts elsewhere. So it'll have heartened WEC and might, two years ago, have puzzled the Maranello board to see them trying to rally the Tifosi back to La Sarthe.
Ferrari currently has an unusual problem, however. It's spending too much money on Formula 1. Ok sorry, that's not really an unusual problem—it's more the existential condition of entering F1—but right now, Ferrari needs to stop spending so much on its F1 program in order to comply with the new $150 million cost cap. That means it's been looking at new ways to redeploy staff, from yeeting some off to Haas to exploring new racing programs.
Maranello has always marketed its cars through motorsport and if it might be getting nervy that even its former F1 drivers don't want them anymore, then a two-year run-up to a (hopefully) triumphant Le Mans return seems like a good shout. Of course, Le Mans isn't the only race on the WEC calendar and as the Hypercar and LMDh categories will be converging in 2022, Ferrari might go for an IMSA entry as well.
What that means for Ferrari's successful and prolific GT programs in endurance, it hasn't said. Competizioni GT will be taking on the Hypercar program and Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari Attività Sportive GT, says it's positive for them.
“Today’s announcement confirms Ferrari’s commitment to the world of endurance racing and completes a journey that began in 2006 when we returned to this activity, which then led us to create Competizioni GT," said Coletta. "Since then, we have brought the Prancing Horse cars back to winning ways as seen by our world titles and victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"We firmly believe in endurance and the announcement of our return to the top class of the FIA WEC, a championship of which Ferrari is one of the founders alongside the FIA and the ACO, is payback for our efforts and hard work of recent years. There is great enthusiasm and desire to face this new, demanding but at the same time exciting challenge," Coletta concluded.
Ferrari flounced out of Le Mans' top category in 1973 after getting generally embarrassed for nearly a decade, which makes 2023 a half-century on for a return. John Elkann, the company president, says it was just waiting for its hero moment: “In over 70 years of racing, on tracks all over the world, we led our closed-wheel cars to victory by exploring cutting-edge technological solutions: innovations that arise from the track and make every road car produced in Maranello extraordinary."
"With the new Le Mans Hypercar program, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events," Elkann continued.
There's plenty of time to pull out yet, of course, if Glickenhaus send the big boys running or the whole category collapses (then again, easy win...) but for fans of top-level endurance racing, this definitely at least teases some red cars in the pretty near future.
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