499P Le Mans racer is Ferrari’s “dream come true”
For the first time in 50 years, Ferrari is preparing to compete for the overall win at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans with the all-new 499P Hypercar prototype, which will also run full-time for the World Endurance Championship, something that hasn’t happened since the curtain came down on the 1973 season and the Ferrari 312 PB.
At present, Ferrari has no plans to race the car in the American IMSA series, which kicks off in January at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, even though the 499P is legal to run in IMSA’s LMH (Le Mans Hypercar) class.
That said, the first race of the WEC season happens to be the 1000 miles of Sebring in March, which is the only WEC race in the U.S. It’s a companion event to the IMSA-sanctioned Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and the Ferrari will debut on track here.
The Ferrari 499P—for Prototype, designating a car built from scratch and not based on a production model—differs significantly from the LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid) cars that will populate IMSA and much of the Prototype field in the WEC. LMDh cars are built using a chassis from one of a list of accepted manufacturers, are rear-wheel-drive, and have a mild-hybrid component. The LMH cars are entirely built by the manufacturers, have a very aggressive electrical component, and in most cases, like the Ferrari, are all-wheel-drive. The 499P uses a Ferrari-constructed, all-new carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. That in-house construction was the appeal of LMH, since it isn’t in Ferrari’s nature to use somebody else’s parts to build its race cars.
The 499P’s hybrid powertrain combines a mid-rear power unit with an electric motor powering the front axle. Total power is a mandated 500 kW (670 horsepower) to the wheels. The 3.0-liter engine is derived from the road-going, twin-turbo V-6 family. Transmission is a seven-speed sequential.
The engine, powering the rear wheels, is loadbearing and therefore performs a valuable structural function. “The second ‘soul’ of the hybrid powertrain is the ERS, or Energy Recovery System, with a maximum power output of 200 kW [268 horsepower]. The electric motor is equipped with a differential and is driven by a battery that is recharged during deceleration and braking, requiring no external power source,” Ferrari says.
The braking uses brake-by-wire, allowing for the recovery of kinetic energy by the front electric axle when slowing. The electric-powered front axle uses energy recovered while braking, storing it in the high-voltage battery before transmitting torque to the front wheels when a certain speed is attained.
Said John Elkann, Ferrari Executive Chairman: “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.”
By 2024, when a couple of manufacturers will be joining the series a year late, Ferrari will be competing against Glickenhaus, Peugeot, and Toyota in LMH, and Acura, Alpine (Renault), BMW, Cadillac, Lamborghini, and Porsche in LMDh. Presently no LMH team is announced for IMSA, though the way the rules are written, LMH and LMDh cars can theoretically compete side-by-side, running the same lap times.
So far, no drivers for Ferrari have been announced, though most of the development driving was done by GT drivers.
“The 499P is a dream come true,” said Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari’s customer- and GT-racing departments. “This is an important moment for all the people who have worked so hard on this project over the past two years. We wanted to pay homage to our history, with many references, both large and small, to a past made up of successes and titles. We do so however, looking ahead, creating a manifesto of our commitment to the world endurance championship.”