Increase / After a 50-year absence, Ferrari is once again building a working endurance prototype.


IMOLA, ITALY — After a 50-year hiatus, Ferrari is returning to endurance racing at the highest level with a new hybrid prototype race car. It’s called the 499P, and in 2023 Ferrari will field a pair of cars in the World Endurance Championship, a series with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its crown jewel.

As I wrote before2023 will be an exciting time for prototype racing enthusiasts. After cubic megabucks era with LMP1h collapsed under the weight with unstable budgets, the top class of the World Endurance Racing Championship spent several years in decline as Toyota faced minimal resistance from much smaller teams. But the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (which races at Le Mans) now has a new set of rules called LMH (Le Mans Hypercar), designed to attract carmakers’ interest by keeping costs reasonable at €30m versus €80m. 200 million that the LMP1h costs – and with less dependence aerodynamic downforceallowing a closer visual connection with their road products.

The 499P may be LMH's best looking car to date.  You'll notice the styling of cars like the new 296 GTB on the nose.
Increase / The 499P may be LMH’s best looking car to date. You’ll notice the styling of cars like the new 296 GTB on the nose.

And so far it works. Toyota was first at LMH with their GR010then boutique manufacturer Glickenhaus, then this year Peugeot eased its way into endurance racing with a new 9X8—still without a rear wing—before the full campaign in 2023. But none of these brands have the same magic as Ferrari. Although he last won at Le Mans in 1965, this yet has more of those total wins (nine) than Toyota (five) and Peugeot (three) combined, trailing only Audi (13) and Porsche (19).

The fact that the new set of rules has brought Ferrari back into the sport means it can already be considered a success, although F1’s spending cap may have played a role as the company found itself with resources it could no longer use for the championship.

Sorry, but it gets complicated

Now, it wouldn’t be sports car racing if it weren’t unnecessarily complicated, and so in addition to the LMH, there’s another new set of rules for Hybrid Prototype Endurance Racing Cars written for the International Motor Sports Association Championship here in North America , under the name LMDh.

The LMDh is more technically prohibitive; each automaker must use one of the four approved carbon fiber chassis as a starting point, with the gearbox, electric motor and battery all specification components. But like the LMH, there’s much less reliance on downforce, and so the cars can look more like what you might find in a showroom. It worked, too, as new cars began racing in 2023 Porsche, BMWAcura and Cadillac. Audi’s planned return has been delayed for the Formula 1 programbut Lamborghini will arrive in 2024.

Two competing sets of sports car rules usually work out badly for everyone, but luckily in this case the ACO and IMSA allow LMH and LMDh cars to compete in their races, with performance balanced to ensure as level a playing field as possible.