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Ferrari shows off new Le Mans car. Image by Ferrari.

Ferrari shows off new Le Mans car
499P will make its debut at Sebring
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What's all this about?

Ferrari is back in top-line sports car racing and coming back to the iconic Le Mans 24hrs.

Didn't we already know that was happening?

Yes, we did but we didn’t know what Ferrari’s new racing car would look like, nor did we know what it would be called. The car is the 499P — that P on the end standing for ‘Prototipo’ and being something of a throwback to classic sports car racers such as the gorgeous 312P of 1969.

The 499 bit is a bit of a throwback too, as it refers to the swept capacity of each of the six cylinders of the car’s engine, giving a total of 3.0-litres. Actually, the 120-degree V6 engine is almost something of a stock-block, being closely related to that used by the 296 GT3 hybrid-engined sports car. Mind you, ‘related to’ covers a pretty big gap…

Like the 296 road car, the 499P is a hybrid — as it has to be to meet the new Le Mans regulations — but unlike Porsche, Ferrari has elected to go down the ‘Hypercar’ rules route, rather than the cheaper and more proscribed LMDH rules that means cars must have customer-made chassis and tightly regulated hybrid components. It also means that Ferrari can create its own bodywork to help include more styling references to its road cars. In fact, the 499P’s headlights are supposed to be reminiscent of the SP3 Daytona supercar…

How much power will it have?

It’ll have 680hp, or a nice even 500kW - a figure which is being tightly controlled for Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship to try to ensure close racing. It uses a hybrid Energy Recovery System (ERS) for electric power, which can contribute up to 272hp to the car’s overall power, but again there are strict rules on how this energy can be harvested and deployed, and again the car can’t exceed the mandated total of 680hp. The hybrid system that Ferrari has chosen works on the front axle only, harvesting power under braking and send that power back to the front wheels when needed.

What's with the big yellow stripe?

That’s another throwback to Ferrari’s glory days of sports car racing, when its cars would often run in red and yellow schemes. The 499P’s colour scheme is actually said to be a homage to the cars driven in the early 1970s by the likes of Brian Redman and Jacky Ickx.

Even the 499P’s entry numbers are significant — the two cars will run with numbers 50 and 51 on the doors, and 51 in particular has a recent historical resonance, as all four of Ferrari’s recent GTE Pro titles in sports car racing have been taken by an AF Corse-run car carrying the number 51. AF Corse will take responsibility for running the 499Ps.

How sophisticated is it?

Very. Aside from the hybrid system, the 499P uses a full carbon-fibre body and chassis, and Ferrari claims that “the geometry of the double wishbone, push- rod-type suspension results in outstanding qualities of damping stiffness, the benefits of which are evident at both maximum velocity as well as in cornering.”

When can we see it in action?

Ferrari will give the 499P its racing debut at the Sebring 1000kms next March — the torturous Florida race track is often thought of as an ideal way to prepare for an assault on Le Mans.

John Elkann, Ferrari's executive chairman, said: “The 499P sees us return to compete for outright victory in the WEC series. When we decided to commit to this project, we embarked on a path of innovation and development, faithful to our tradition that sees the track as the ideal terrain to push the boundaries of cutting-edge technological solutions, solutions that in time will be transferred to our road cars. We enter this challenge with humility, but conscious of a history that has taken us to over 20 world endurance titles and nine overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

Neil Briscoe - 2 Nov 2022

2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.

2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.2023 Ferrari 499P. Image by Ferrari.       - Ferrari road tests
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