Le Mans 24 Hours preview: Ferrari conquers the world

In the 100th edition of the toughest car race in the world, Ferrari competes against the whole world.

The Italian supercar manufacturer has been in the Le Mans 24 Hours hero category for exactly 50 years, but is back in 2023 with renewed enthusiasm.

It added some much-needed passion and excitement to this weekend’s anniversary race, dominating practice and qualifying with the two fastest laps set by its all-new 499P hybrid race car.

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Image: 24 hours du Mans Credit: CarExpert

New hybrid rules and a new approach to competition at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship have lured Ferrari from the sidelines back into the limelight.

But Porsche is back. And Peugeot. And the Toyota squad, which has dominated in France in recent years, is continuing its triumphant march at Le Mans.

Even Cadillac has joined the action and the pursuit of a title that still means as much to everyday motorists around the world as winning the Monaco Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500.

Image: 24 hours du Mans Credit: CarExpert

“Really, anything can happen — and the world will watch,” General Motors President Mark Reuss told CarExpert.

A racer at heart, a former CEO of Holden, and the man who gave the go-ahead for the Cadillac assault at Le Mans after a string of class victories with the Chevrolet Corvette.

“To be invited to compete here is a great honor for both Cadillac and Chevrolet. Being able to go head-to-head with the best in the world – riders, teams and gear – is exhilarating.”

Leading up to the race, things were going well for Cadillac until they failed. The American prototype was third fastest in the battle for pole position for a while, until a fuel line rupture caused a spectacular fire. This is Le Mans.

Image: Peugeot Credit: CarExpert

So Ferrari will start on the front row, ahead of two Toyotas and then the repaired Cadillac.

Peugeot? The French favorites weren’t even fast enough to qualify for the shootout for pole position.

And that’s the thing about Le Mans. Everything is different and for 2023 that even means a new generation of hybrid racers at the front of the field.

The total line-up consists of 63 sports cars, no single-seaters, and each will be shared by three drivers.

Image: Toyota Credit: CarExpert

They drive twice around the clock in a race that – as Toyota once proved – can even be lost on the very last lap.

In many ways, Le Mans is like a giant street party set around a car race. There’s a 24-hour amusement park, bars at every stage of the trail, and huge fields full of campers. And that is just the beginning…

Nevertheless, the competition is deadly serious and extremely hard fought.

Porsche made its name as a legendary sports car brand with the best record at Le Mans – 19 wins overall – although Toyota has set the benchmark with five wins in recent years.

Image: 24 hours du Mans Credit: CarExpert

Ferrari? It sits third in the all-time list with nine wins, but the last time it finished first was in 1965. So why is the Italian brand back?

“For us, this project is one of the most important motorsport projects for Ferrari after Formula 1,” said Antonello Coletta, global head of endurance racing at Ferrari, ahead of this weekend’s race.

“I don’t know if we have a chance to beat Toyota. I believe it won’t be easy. But we will definitely make every effort.”

Image: Peugeot Credit: CarExpert

Results of the 24 Hours of Mans Hyperpole 2023

  1. #50 Ferrari AF Corse, Antonio Fuoco: 3:22.982
  2. #51 Ferrari AF Corse, Alessandro Pier Guidi: +0.773
  3. #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing, Kamui Kobayashi: +1.285
  4. #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing, Brendon Hartley: +1.469
  5. #75 Porsche Penske Motorsport, Felipe Nasr: +1.549
  6. #2 Cadillac Racing, Earl Bamber: +2.188
  7. #5 Porsche Penske Motorsport, Frederic Makowiecki: +2.194
  8. #3 Cadillac Racing, Sebastian Bourdais: +2.539

James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: jamesbrien@24ssports.com.

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