Ferrari celebrated its 70th anniversary in style, with a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Of course, an anniversary offers the opportunity to look back on the Italian marque’s glittering past. But it’s not all rear-view mirrors; Ferrari’s future is forever in the making.
A Le Mans winner at first attempt in 1949, Ferrari set about building its reputation in endurance racing, claiming nine outright victories between 1949 and 1965, well before becoming the most capped constructor in Formula One (31 titles and 229 race wins). This year, the prancing horse was still very much present, with a class win at Le Mans in LMGTE Am thanks to the 488 GTE fielded by JMW Motorsport. Add to that the World Endurance Championship GT driver and manufacturer titles (eight wins in LMGTE Pro and Am together), JMW Motorsport’s European Le Mans Series trophy plus three race wins for Swiss team Spirit of Race and you get the picture!
At the Chantilly Arts & Elégance classic car festival in September, the Ferrari 250 TR that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958 in the hands of Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill was among the stars of the show. In the rain-drenched 1958 race, the Ferrari crew put an end to Jaguar’s winning streak and Phil Hill became the first American to win Le Mans. It was also Gendebien’s first triumph in the iconic French marathon. He went on to claim the trophy three more times, setting a new record for the number of wins, which he held for nineteen years.
In February, at the Paris Rétromobile show, bidding will open for a Le Mans-winning Ferrari currently owned by former gentleman driver Hervé Poulain. The 275 P took the chequered flag in 1964, driven by Frenchman Jean Guichet and Sicilian Nino Vaccarella, in what was the eighth (and fifth successive) victory for Ferrari at Le Mans. That year there were no less than six Ferraris in the top ten: four in the top five and three on the podium!
Ferrari remains a favourite for the forthcoming WEC and ELMS seasons in the LMGTE class, including at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In July, the vintage event Le Mans Classic will be the scene of more Ferrari action on the 24 Hours circuit. The legend lives on!
Photo (Mathieu Bonnevie): Succeeding to the 166 MM of Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon in 1949 and the 375 Plus of Maurice Trintignant and José Froilan Gonzalez in 1954, the 250 TR displayed at Chantilly in 2017 gave Ferrari its third triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien.