Connect with us

24H Le Mans

Ferrari Expects “Bigger” Fight for Le Mans Victory

Fight for Le Mans victory won’t be just between Ferrari, Porsche and Toyota, says Italian manufacturer…

Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari says it is expecting more manufacturers to be in the mix for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans than the opening rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The Italian manufacturer heads to next month’s centrepiece WEC round aiming to defend the historic victory it scored last year with the 499P, having not scored a victory in a regular round of the series in the interim.

Ferrari, Porsche and Toyota have proven to be the top teams in the first three rounds of the season, with Porsche scoring two of the wins available so far (including one for customer squad Hertz Team JOTA) and Toyota the other, with Ferrari missing out despite appearing to have the fastest car on pure pace at both Imola and Spa.

The three brands have a significant lead in the manufacturers’ standings over fourth-placed Alpine, while the highest-placed of the driver crews not from Ferrari, Porsche or Toyota is the No. 35 Alpine squad in 11th.

But Ferrari’s performance and regulations manager Mauro Barbieri is not viewing the fight for honors at Le Mans this year as a three-way fight, based on not only the evidence of last year’s race but also on the opening rounds of the 2024 season.

“I think it’s going to be bigger,” said Barbieri. “Also last year we had a surprise with Cadillac and with Peugeot also being very competitive at certain moments.

“Last year has been a wonderful race because there were different cars being faster on track at different moments of the race. This year will be no different and there might be more cars that join this ‘roulette’, let’s say. I wouldn’t rule out anyone.

“Having so many cars in the top class is not happening frequently and I’m sure this will give a better show than ever.”

While the 499P’s performance at Imola and Spa has given Ferrari confidence of a strong showing at Le Mans, Barbieri admitted that a proper assessment of Ferrari’s chances can’t be made until the Balance of Performance in Hypercar is known.

“The result and performance last year gives us some confidence specifically for Le Mans, and then there are some boundary conditions that still need to be defined,” said Barbieri. “There is still one month to properly assess that.

“Arguably we could say the 499P was more developed focusing on Le Mans, whereas the Toyota is more developed for high downforce, the sprint race circuits. We have no clear evidence of that, but I think our performance at Le Mans was a bit better than we could have expected [based on] the first three events of the WEC.

“Hopefully it will be like also this year, but there are a lot of boundary conditions to be defined in order to be a bit more confident on this answer.”

Besides the unknown of the BoP, Hypercar teams will head to Le Mans without the use of tire warmers, after the ban imposed for the start of the 2023 WEC was lifted at La Sarthe last year on a one-off basis.

Barbieri believes this will not pose a significant challenge now teams have an extra year of experience without using tire warmers, although he pointed out it is likely to lead to the softest of the three Michelin tire compounds getting more usage.

“Maybe this will shift the tire choice towards softer compounds when track temperatures are lower than usual,” he said. “The soft that you normally in the night will be used earlier on Saturday and later on Sunday morning.

“By how much I still cannot say. But being a low degradation, low wear track, the tire choice will shift more towards the softer compounds.

“Normally it’s between soft and medium, so soft in the night and medium in the daytime. Without the warmers, it will be more towards the soft in the past.”

Asked if he could foresee a lack of tire warmers changing the balance between Ferrari and its competitors, Barbieri: “No, it’s the same for everyone. You just have to adapt and try to do your best with what you have.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

Click to comment

More in 24H Le Mans