After months of rumour and speculation, shreds of more substantial information began to emerge a few weeks ago that indicated clearly that Ferrari’s evaluation of the new Hypercar class were about to come to a very positive conclusion.
Happily, that has now been confirmed and one of the biggest stories in endurance racing in decades, and a further endorsement of the concept of convergence for the new top class, has received an enormous vote of confidence.
But what does this mean for the overall picture as we tiptoe through the remains of the COVID crisis and look towards the bright light beyond?
Ferrari will enter Le Mans, and the FIA WEC as a factory team in 2023, the first top class effort from the marque as a factory team since 1973, the team will return then, 50 years after they left the stage and will return to fight for a Le Mans win on the 100th anniversary of the first Le Mans 24 Hours
With the Ferrari brand a true global phenomenon, there will doubtless be those that would like to buy their own LMH Ferrari, and Ferrari have a history of providing suitably monied customers with the opportunity to spend!
We already have Glickenhaus ready, willing and able to divest potential customers of an LMH-sized pile of cash, surely the likelihood is now that Ferrari might follow suit, perhaps after the first year with the cars in factory hands.
If so that adds a further layer of sustainability to the new Hypercar class.
The other step forward is that there will now be significantly more pressure on IMSA to accept LMH cars in their top class, not just because of the power and draw that the brand represents, but also because Ferrari are an IMSA-recognised manufacturer, and the voice of a true stakeholder around the table asking for an opportunity to race in North America is likely to hold significantly more sway than other mainstream manufacturers who are currently not IMSA competitors.
The signs are that such a step would not be made without an evidence base of the rulemakers’ ability to effectively balance the LMH and LMDH cars, so if it does happen that’s unlikely to be before the start of the 2024 IMSA season!
The final point in this brief summary is that, with no exceptions, Ferrari is the biggest automotive brand on the planet in terms of recognition and aspiration, and there’s little doubt that when the factory team come, they’ll do so with no little effort.
Add to that picture an already confirmed assertional top class field for 2023 that includes the last four marques that have won overall at Le Mans (Toyota, Porsche, Audi and Peugeot), plus the likelihood of several others to come, including both mainstream mass volume, and more aspirational brands.
Now is the time for all involved to look at what can, and should, be done to prepare the ground for a seismic shift in the visibility of, and interest in, endurance racing.
Get it right and the future could be very bright indeed, get it wrong and it will be a unique opportunity wasted.
As the world emerges from a truly dark period, here’s hoping that smart moves are made, not in 2023, but right now!