Ferrari has unveiled its long-anticipated Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) endurance race car, named the 499P, following months of teasers and a 50-year absence from top-class endurance racing. The vehicle is set to compete in the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2023.
The 499P has been in design since March of 2021 and is debuting after several prominent automakers, including Porsche, Cadillac and BMW have announced their own prototype racers. Ferrari is unique because it will compete in the LMH class instead of the Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDH) class, a costlier series due to the powertrains used.
Hypercar entrants also have far greater control over their vehicles, as noted by Ferdinando Cannizzo, Ferrari’s GT track car development chief.
“This is our car, so we can optimize everything we want,” Cannizzo said.
At the core of the 499P is a twin-turbo V6 assisted by a 268-horsepower electric motor powering the front axle. The mechanical power from the 3.0L V6 is sent to the rear wheels, totaling to a combined 670 horsepower: the maximum amount allowed in the 499P’s class. Ferrari does this all while keeping the weight down to no less than 2,270 pounds (1030 kil0grams) thanks in part to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis. Double wishbone, push rod suspension and a 7-speed Xtrac transmission are also present in the 499P for maximum speed in corner entries and exits.
Cannizzo also stressed performance on the track won’t be harmed despite using a smaller engine than some competitors, stating that the V6 found in the 499P is “small, light and very compact: [giving] an advantage in packaging, weight distribution and center of gravity.”
Ferrari’s decision to use a six-cylinder engine wasn’t solely backed by performance figures.
“Selecting the V6 was definitely the right path to follow considering the way our range of road cars is moving — it was natural to go that route,” Cannizzo said.
Ferrari’s newest road car, the 296 GTB, utilizes a V6 for the same aforementioned reasons. However, the V6 in the 499P racecar has been built from the ground up for the best chance at winning next year’s Le Mans.
Because Ferrari often gets vehicle names from the engine used, a new motor means a new name. The 499P’s numeric nameplate is sourced from the engine’s near-3,000cc engine capacity divided by the six cylinders.
Mechanical aspects aren’t the only new aspects on the 499P. A bright red paint job highlighted by yellow streaks pays homage to Ferrari’s last endurance racer, the 312PB, piloted by legendary drivers Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman and Arturo Merzario and others. The other forefront aspect regarding the new 499P is the monumental twin rear-wing, which also houses the single taillight strip. Large quantities of carbon fiber have been left exposed to contrast the eye-catching design.
Two 499Ps will run next year, bearing racing numbers 50 and 51. The former represents how many years have passed since Ferrari last raced in the highest class, and the latter is symbolic in Ferrari’s GT racing past. Ferrari has won four GTE Pro titles with #51 on the vehicles.
Ferrari’s head of GT motorsport, Antonello Coletta, said the 499P is “a tribute to our past and a manifesto for our future”.
“The 499 confirms our commitment to endurance racing, which is part of our history and part of a tradition of using this kind of competition to test new technologies,” said Coletta.
Expect to see the 499P in action for the entirety of the 2023 World Endurance Championship (WEC) schedule, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both the 499P and other recently-developed cars are debuting at the Sebring 1000 Miles next March.