Ferrari returns to the top category of professional sports car racing for the first time in half a century with the gas-electric hybrid 499P, which will compete in the new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) category of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) World Endurance Championship in 2023.
Hypercars retain the best qualities of the outgoing gas-electric hybrid Le Mans Prototype 1 cars (LMP1), while the FIA has taken steps to drastically cut costs and level the competition by imposing strict and measurable limits horsepower and development budgets. Ferrari will not be alone as several manufacturers plan a return to Le Mans and international sports car racing with Hypercars in 2023.
Because the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO, the regional organization that manages the 24-hour Le Mans race) have harmonized the rules with those of the American organization IMSA (International Motor Sports Association, owned by NASCAR) , the 499P will debut here in North America at the 1000 Miles of Sebring on March 17, 2023. As a tribute to the Ferrari 312 PB that Jackie Ickx and Mario Andretti drove to victory in the 1972 Sebring 12 Hours, the 499P will a similar livery of yellow stripes over red.
The return of European sports prototype cars to America heralds a return to the golden era of the American Le Mans Series (1999-2013), where exotic European prototype sports cars compete on North American tracks.
It’s important to note that the ups and downs of sports car racing typically progress in a decade-long boom-and-bust cycle, golden eras often followed by several years of dull racing due to the limited participation of major manufacturers. . Hypercars and the star power of Ferrari should usher in a new golden age.
The version of the 499P evolved from the architecture of the twin-turbocharged V6 engine fitted to the Ferrari 296 GT3 race car and is more akin to the 296 road car engine. . This differs from the GT3 competition cars, where the engine is mounted on the rear sub-chassis of the car. In short, this means that the fundamental part of the engine, the cast block, is very robust.
The electric motor is mounted in the front and equipped with a differential, with the power carefully dosed to each front wheel. Just like with hybrids, the 900 Volt battery pack is charged on the road during braking and braking, ‘raining’ or recuperative braking. It is important to note that the Energy Recovery System (ERS) was developed specifically for the 499P, although Ferrari knows a lot about regenerative braking for its hybrid powertrains in Formula 1 and the road Stradale.
Under Hypercar rules designed to equalize performance, sharpen competition and put more emphasis on driver power, the electric front axle only delivers torque to the front wheels at higher speeds. It has less impact when accelerating out of tight corners at low speed.
The FIA and ACO have capped maximum power at 500 kW (approximately 670 hp), and the Hypercars must weigh a minimum of 1030 kilograms (approximately 2270 pounds, comparable to top-level Le Mans prototypes of the past 20+ years) .
Ferrari sports cars took nine overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The glory days of the brand’s sports car ran from the 166MM ‘barchetta’ which won the first post-war 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949, with victories in the 1950s and mid-1960s. By the early 1970s, the Scuderia chose to focus on Formula 1.
Ferrari 499Ps will be managed on the track by Maranello technicians and engineers in conjunction with AF Corse, a long-standing partnership that began in the 2006 FIA GT series with the F430 GT2 competing in its debut season as Team, Driver and Constructor titles secured. Ferrari has transferred program management to Attività Sportive GT, led by Antonello Coletta. Ferdinando Cannizzo leads the engineering and development of Ferrari’s sports and GT racing cars. The architecture of 499P was led by the racers at Maranello, but Flavio Manzoni, who leads Ferrari road car design, was also involved, ensuring that this racing weapon reflects the current design themes of Ferrari production cars. Ferrari has not yet released driver names.