Ferrari 250 LM: The Last Prancing Horse To Win Le Mans

Ferrari 250 LM: The Last Prancing Horse To Win Le Mans

A detailed overview of the Ferrari 250 LM’s importance during the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Intended as the successor to the 250 GTO in the GT class, the Ferrari 250 LM was rejected by the FIA for entry in the GT class because fewer than the required 100 cars were produced. This meant the 250 LM needed to be entered in the prototype class, competing against cars such as the Ford GT40.

1965 24 Hours of Le Mans Ford vs Ferrari

Photo: Motorsport Images

The 1965 edition would become the last victory of Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford vs. Ferrari, for the last time in favour of the latter.

The Ferrari 250 LM

1963 Ferrari 250 LM

Photo: Ferrari

From 1963 to 1965, 32 Ferrari 250 LM units left the Maranello factory. Powered by a 3.3-L V12 similar to the one used in the 275 P, it pushed out some 320 bhp. Both factory teams and privateer racers had a lot of success driving the car in various races; of its 35 entries in 1964, the 250 LM won 10.

The 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans

There were five 250 LMs entered in that year’s relentless endurance race:

Team

No.

Drivers

Result

North American Racing Team

#21

Jochen Rindt

Masten Gregory

Ed Hugus

1st

Pierre Dumay

#26

Pierre Dumay

Gustave Gosselin

2nd

Scuderia Filipinetti

#27

Dieter Spoerry

Armand Boller

6th

Ecurie Francorchamps

#25

Leon Dernier

Gerald Langlois van Ophem

DNF (12th hour)

Maranello Concessionaires

#23

Mike Salmon

Lucien Bianchi

DNF (8th hour)

 

Even though two of the five Ferrari 250 LMs did not manage to finish, the overall result was something to be proud of. For now, our story will focus on the #21 NART 250 LM.

The North American Racing Team (NART) founder Luigi Chinetti (who happened to be a triple Le Mans winner himself) entered two Ferraris in the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans: a Ferrari 365 P2 and the 250 LM (#21). This particular 250 LM (s/n 5893) was purchased by the team in 1964 and prepared for the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1965 24 Hours of Le Mans Start

The start was far from ideal. The team qualified the Ferrari 250 LM (#21) in 11th place, and in the fourth hour of the race, Gregory had to bring the car into the pits due a mechanical problem. After changing the distributor and losing 30 minutes, the car was back on track with Jochen Rindt behind the wheel in 18th position.

Whilst the #21 NART 250 LM was driving flat-out and climbing up the rankings while other Ferraris around it failed, the 250 LM seemed to be running reliably.

The Third Driver

Ed Hugus

You might have noticed the #21 NART 250 LM had three drivers instead of the standard two. This only came to light in the late 2000s. Ed Hugus (pictured above) was supposed to drive another Ferrari but didn’t qualify. Whilst hanging around in the pit lane during the 12th hour of the race, Gregory brought the car in because he was simply too exhausted to continue driving. Jochen Rindt was reportedly nowhere to find, so the team decided that Ed Hugus would take over driving for a few hours.

During his short stint behind the wheel, Hugus managed to gain on the leader with each lap, and yet he was never acknowledged as one of the winning drivers.

Ferrari 250 LM 1965 NART (2)

Gregory was technically not allowed to drive again once Hugus came in for a driver change, but he got behind the wheel anyway, so in theory the car should have been disqualified. However, at no point did anyone officially record Hugus as a driver. NART, the drivers and Ferrari all kept it quiet so they wouldn’t risk disqualification.

The Finish

By the 16th hour of the race, Ferrari still had an impressive eight cars in the race. There was one Cobra left on the track, but otherwise all of Ford’s entries had dropped out by this point.

Ferrari 250 LM 1965

The #21 NART 250 LM was still driving in second place, but due a deflated tire on the #26 250 LM, the NART car quickly gained ground and ultimately won the race with a five-lap lead. Second place was taken by 250 LM #26 and third place was claimed by Ecurie Francorchamps in their Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione Speciale (#24).

Finish of 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans truly was the end of an era, as Ferrari has never again managed an overall win at this legendary endurance race.

Written by Max Lammers.


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