In the early 1960s, Ferrari dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans, before being shut down by Ford and its GT40. Ferrari gradually withdrew from sports-car racing, shifting focus to Formula One, but now it's back.
The automaker announced Wednesday that it will join the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class in 2023, a series whose highlight is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The move will mark Ferrari's return to the legendary French endurance race as a factory team.
LMH is the new top class in the WEC, replacing the LMP1 hybrid prototypes that have ruled the roost since the 2012 season. The main difference is that LMH cars are loosely based on production models, albeit low-volume hypercars, hence the name. While a mystery test mule tipped to be a LaFerrari successor has been spotted in Maranello, it's unclear if this will be the road-going counterpart to Ferrari's LMH racer.
Ferrari said it just kicked off development of its LMH contender "in recent weeks," and won't announce further details of the car, or the driver lineup, until a later date.
Ferrari at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans
The automaker last competed in the top tier of FIA sports-car racing in 1973, when the series was known as the World Sports Car Championship. Its last overall Le Mans victory came in 1965, but Ferrari has been represented by various privateer teams running in the lower-level GT classes. AF Corse scored a GTE Pro class win at Le Mans in 2019, and Ferrari won the WEC GT manufacturer's championship in 2017.
The first race for LMH cars will be the 2021 WEC season opener at Portimao April 4. Toyota, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, and Germany's ByKolles will field cars in the first season, while Peugeot is expected to join in 2022.
Aston Martin was originally expected to join the LMH class with a race-ready version of the Valkyrie, but the automaker put those plans on hold following the announcement of the LMDh class for the United States-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will replace the current DPi prototype class for the 2023 season.
Meanwhile, Porsche plans to return to Le Mans with an LMDh entry, a move made possible because the class rules are being developed in concert with the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), which sanctions the race. That means we'll see Porsche and Ferrari battling for victory at Le Mans in just a few years. The top series of endurance racing will once again be a spectacle.