The 2023 season of WEC (World Endurance Championship) is upon us. The series kicks off with the iconic 1000 Miles of Sebring, on March 17 and finishes on November 4th, in Bahrain.
This will be a very special year indeed. The cornerstone of endurance racing, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The organizers are expecting 300.000 race fans for the party, which will happen on June 10th.
This is not the only important date to be remembered, Porsche will be celebrating its 75th anniversary and the CEOs already expressed that an overall victory at Le Mans will be the perfect way to mark the occasion. The Germans will be racing their new Hypercar prototype, the hybrid 963, (pictured above), but they won’t be the only one competing with a new car at the top class in WEC. Cadillac, Peugeot, and Ferrari will also bring some very interesting machines to the battlefield. All of them deserve a post here at TCM, but I will focus only on the Ferrari Hypercar.
In the 2023 season, there will be 3 classes, one for GT cars and two for prototypes. Lets take a quick look at them.
This class is reserved for track versions of production cars, and t is pretty close to the more popular GT3. This year only 4 models will be represented, Chevrolet Corvette C8-R, Aston Martin Vantage AMR, Ferrari 488 GTE-EVO, and Porsche 911-RSR-19. This class is the slowest on the field but it can be very engaging to follow. The battle for positions is always thrilling and the cars are easily identifiable, making it a blast to watch on TV.
The Le Mans Prototype 2 was designed as entry-level in sports prototype racing. The teams can’t have financial support from the automakers but they can choose their cars from four different providers, Oreca, Ligier, Multimac, and Dallara.
Apparently, Oreca is the best of the bunch since the company has been supplying chassis for most of the teams for a while now. The cars are powered by a specs 4.3-liter, naturally-aspirated V8, producing about 600 bhp. The engines are supplied by Gibson Technologies, based in the UK.
This is the zenith of sports prototype racing. The category was conceived back in 2018 and had its debut in 2021.
The rule book of this class is very accommodating, the cars can be fully petrol-powered or hybrid, and there’s no limit on the engine displacement. All this flexibility was created with one thing in mind, to lure the big dogs to the sports car racing arena. So far, the “trap” is working, for the 2023 Hypercar season there will be no less than seven manufacturers, Cadillac, Peugeot, Toyota, Porsche, Glickenhus, Vanwall, and Ferrari.
Ferrari is back
-“What are you talking about? As far as I know, Ferrari never left the sports car competition“.
Yes, you are absolutely right. The Maranello boys have been competing since 1947 when for the first time a Ferrari was entered in a race, but the company quit sports prototypes altogether in 1973.
Every gearhead knows, at least a little bit, about the Ford vs Ferrari war (if you don’t, do yourself a favor and watch the movie). As the story goes, Ferrari was the dominant brand in the field until Ford came along in 1965 and shattered Italian supremacy. But let’s not forget Porsche was already Ferrari’s main rival way before Ford came to the playground. In other words, the competition became too stiff.
What many fans do not remember is Ferrari didn’t die after losing the war against Ford in Le Mans. The Scuderia won the Sports Prototype championships in 1967 and again in 1972, when the Italians completely dominated the season, winning every single race but Le Mans.
The main factor that drove Ferrari out of the Sports Prototype competition was the decision to concentrate effort and money on the Formula One team, which would give the brand much more exposure. The farewell season was 1973.
That explains all the fuss around the new Ferrari prototype. Even if the brand never stopped supplying cars for private teams in the GT class, the fans are now extremely excited to see a Ferrari racing at the highest level in the sports car universe, after a 50 years hiatus.
But what is driving the Tifosi really wild is a chance to see the team winning at Le Mans once again. After all, the last time Ferrari scored an overall victory there was in 1965.
The Hypercar teams have the freedom to choose an off-the-shelf chassis for their cars, for example, Cadillac chose Dallara and Porsche will be racing Multimac. That can certainly save some time and money.
But the 499P was entirely developed and built in Maranello, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a real Ferrari.
The engineering team took full advantage of years of experience in hybrid power in Formula One, although the 499 will be a totally different kind of beast. In F1, the petrol engine and the electric motors are intrinsically connected, forming a single power unit, driving the rear wheels.
The 499 is powered by the same engine found in the 296 GTB road car (picture above). It is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6, producing 670 bhp, in mid-engine position, driving the rear wheels. The 268 bhp electric motor is mounted in front of the car, driving the front wheels, and only kicks in when the car is above 75 km/h. This motor can also work as a generator, charging a 900-volt battery, when the driver is braking the car. This system is called KERS, or Kinetic Energy Recover System. All the other hybrid cars in this class have similar architecture.
The 499 was officially presented to the public on 29 October 2022, during the gala evening held on the occasion of the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Imola’s Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
Everything we saw that day has a strong meaning, the 499 name was taken from the displacement of a single cylinder (in cubic centimeters), and the P means Prototype.
Ferrari will be competing with two cars in 2023, they’ll carry the numbers 50 and 51 — 50 for it being 50 years since the last Ferrari factory effort in worldwide endurance racing, and 51 has adorned many successful Ferrari racing cars.
The yellow strip livery is a homage to the legendary 312 P from the 1970s.
The Tifosi can hardly wait to see Ferrari and Porsche going at each other throats again, after so many years, but we all know that the team they must beat is Toyota.
2023 will be Toyota’s 11th season in WEC, on an unprecedented run of success, having earned five consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victories and four straight World Championship doubles. Ferrari knows that heritage alone won’t be enough to beat Toyota. As John Elkann, Ferrari executive chairman said: -“We enter this challenge with humility, but conscious of a history that has taken us to over 20 world endurance titles and 9 overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans”.
Ferrari is not only competing in the WEC, but also in the American IMSA. That means I might have a chance to see the 499 up close when they come to Toronto this year. Yes, I am counting the days.
One thought on “Ferrari Hypercar”
it is good to a see a Ferrari prototype at the tracks once again.