Ferrari returns to the premier class of professional sports car racing for the first time in half a century with the 499P petrol-electric hybrid, which will compete in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class ( FIA) World Endurance Championship in 2023.
The hypercars retain the best qualities of the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) petrol-electric hybrid cars while the FIA has taken steps to drastically cut costs and level the competition by placing strict and measurable limits on the power and budgets of development. Ferrari won’t be alone, as several manufacturers are planning a return to Le Mans and international sportscar racing with Hypercars in 2023.
Because the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO, the regional body that manages the 24 Hours of Le Mans) have harmonized the regulations with those of the American organization IMSA (International Motor Sports Association, owned by NASCAR) , the The 499P will make its debut here in North America at the 1000 Miles of Sebring on March 17, 2023. Paying homage to the Ferrari 312 PB that Jackie Ickx and Mario Andretti drove to victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1972, the 499P will wear a livery of yellow stripes on red.
The return of European prototype sports cars to America heralds a return to the golden age of the American Le Mans Series (1999-2013), which saw exotic European prototype sports cars compete on North American tracks .
It’s important to note that the fortunes of sports car racing typically play out on a decade-long boom and bust cycle, golden periods often followed by several years of boring racing due to limited participation by major players. manufacturers. Ferrari’s hypercars and star power are set to bring a new golden era.
Derived from the architecture of the twin-turbo V6 engine powering the Ferrari 296 GT3 race car and further removed from the engine of the 296 road car, the 499P version is load-bearing, which means it is a stressed structural element in the overall architecture. . This differs from GT3 competition cars, where the engine is mounted on the rear subframe of the car. In short, this means that the fundamental part of the engine, the cast block, is very robust.
The electric motor is front-mounted and fitted with a differential, carefully metering power to each front wheel. The 900-volt battery is recharged during deceleration and braking, “regenerative” or regenerative braking, just like on road hybrids. It’s important to note that the Energy Recovery System (ERS) was developed specifically for 499P, although Ferrari knows a lot about regenerative braking in its Formula 1 hybrid powertrains and on the Stradale road.
Following Hypercar rules intended to even out performance, tighten competition and place more emphasis on driver ability, the electric front axle only delivers torque to the front wheels at higher speeds. It will have less impact when accelerating through low speed tight corners.
The FIA and ACO have capped maximum power at 500 kW (about 670 horsepower), and Hypercars must weigh a minimum of 1,030 kilograms (about 2,270 pounds, comparable to top-level Le Mans prototypes of the past 20 years).
Ferrari sports cars have won nine overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The marque’s sports car glory days range from the 166MM “barchetta” winning the first post-war 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949, with victories throughout the 1950s and into the mid-1960s. In the early 1970s, the Scuderia chose to focus on Formula 1.
The Ferrari 499Ps will be track-handled by technicians and engineers from Maranello working in conjunction with AF Corse, a long-standing partnership that began in the 2006 FIA GT Series with the F430 GT2 that won the Team, Driver and Team titles. and Constructor in its first season. Ferrari has entrusted the management of the program to Attività Sportive GT, under the direction of Antonello Coletta. Ferdinando Cannizzo leads the engineering and development of Ferrari’s sports and GT racing cars. The architecture of the 499P was guided by Maranello racers, but Flavio Manzoni, who heads up Ferrari road car design, was also involved, ensuring this racing weapon reflects current car design themes. of Ferrari production. Ferrari has yet to reveal the names of the drivers.