Ferrari 70th anniversary – Seventy years ago, on 12 March 1947 to be precise, Enzo Ferrari fired up a 125 S, the first car to bear his name. The car was driven through the streets of Maranello, which marked the start of Ferrari’s long and colourful sporting history.
That same year, the 1.5-litre V12 Ferrari 125 S scored its first victory in the Rome GP on 25 May, and the Ferrari followed this with six more victories in a very busy year. Ferrari’s first victory in the Le Mans 24-Hour race came just two years later when Luigi Chinetti/Lord Selsdon brought their 166 MM Barchetta home first. Chinetti drove for almost 23 hours, an astonishing feat for the 47-year old, in what was a brutal race with just 16 of the 49 original starters finishing the race.
Roll forward seventy years, and Ferrari will once again be competing at Le Mans, where the factory-supported AF Corse team will compete with the numbers 51 and 71 Ferrari 488 GTE. They will be joined in the GTE Pro class by Risi Competizione with the number 82 Ferrari 488 GTE.
No less than eight Ferrari 488 GTE (2016) will contest the GTE Am class, entered by five different teams. The chances of a Ferrari victory in this class is very strong as they make up half of the class.
Ferrari long-termer, Gianmaria Bruni, left the AF Corse team earlier in the year and is to join the Porsche works team, but for contractual reasons, he can only get behind the wheel of a Porsche in July this year. His services and vast experience will be sorely missed by the Italian team. But having said that, there is no shortage of skill and experience in the team. In the first two rounds of the 2017 WEC, AF Corse finished 2nd and 5th at Silverstone, and they followed this with a 1-2 finish at the Spa 6 Hours – don’t expect anything but the best from the team at Le Mans. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will be joined in the #51 Ferrari by ex-Audi LMP1 driver, Lucas Di Grassi. The #71 car will be piloted by Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Miguel Molina.
Risi Competizione, the Houston-based Ferrari racing team, is the most successful Ferrari GT racing team in North America. The team’s list of achievements includes three wins at Le Mans, four wins in the 12-Hours of Sebring and three wins at the Petit Le Mans. Piloting the #82 Ferrari from America will be the hugely experienced Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer. In its 12 previous attempts at Le Mans, Risi Competizione can list three victories and four additional podium finishes. The team’s first appearance at Le Mans was back in 1998 when Wayne Taylor, Eric van de Poele and Fermin Velez won the LMP-1 class in the Ferrari 333 SP.
In the GTE Am class, there is a vast pool of experienced drivers from the Asian Le Mans Series, and while some of the names may not be familiar to European racing enthusiasts, rest assured that the Asian series is highly competitive. This year sees Tracy Krohn making a return to GTE Am after a brief foray into LMP2 last year, and is teamed up with Niclas Jönsson and Andrea Bertolini in the #83 Ferrari 488 GTE. Tracy returns to his love of Ferraris on the occasion of the manufacturer’s 70th anniversary year, marking the twelfth year with Nic as teammate, breaking the Audi pairing record of more than a decade. One thing is for sure, there will be fireworks amongst the eight Ferrari entrants, let alone with the other competitors in this 16-strong class.
In celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Ferrari will be keen to make a big splash at Le Mans, not least because it has some unfinished business from the 2016 race. You can be sure that Ferrari will be keen to lift the GTE trophy once again, so you will certainly be in for a good race.
Virtual Motorpix will be there in force, so keep a watch out for our blogs between now and the race on 17/18 June!!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale and John Mountney