Deep dive: Ferrari’s unbeaten six years at Le Mans

Deep dive: Ferrari’s unbeaten six years at Le Mans

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Ferrari’s six consecutive Le Mans victories from 1960-1965 marked an era of racing dominance.

We've previously explored all Ferrari Le Mans victories (overall and class), but be sure not to miss a detailed retrospective on the marque's dominance at Le Mans throughout the 1960s.

Before 1960

Ferrari 166 MM Le Mans 1949

Ferrari made its debut at Le Mans in 1949 with Luigi Chinetti, Peter Mitchell-Thomson, and Lord Selsdon driving the Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta chassis 0008M to an impressive first-time victory. The marque's second triumph occurred in 1954 when José Froilán González and Maurice Trintignant outpaced the dominant Jaguars, winning by a narrow three-minute margin in their 375 Plus.

Despite Jaguar's dominance from 1955 to 1957, rule changes in 1958, limiting engine sizes, favoured Ferrari, allowing Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill to clinch the title in their 250 TR/58. However, in 1959, mechanical failures plagued the Ferrari TR models, leading to their early withdrawal, paving the way for Aston Martin's victory with the DBR1.


Ferrari 250 TR Le Mans 1960

Ferrari was well-prepared for a decisive battle in the World Championship in 1960, deploying 13 cars from both their works and privateer teams. The race began under challenging conditions as torrential rain hit just 3 hours in, causing numerous accidents and mechanical issues due to water seeping into the engines.

Amidst this chaos, Ferrari's main competition included Maserati and British teams, with American Corvettes also vying in the GT category. As the race progressed into the night, many rivals were forced out, paving the way for Ferrari's dominance.

Ultimately, Ferrari’s sports and GT cars dominated the field, securing 7 of the top 8 positions. The sequence was only disrupted by the Aston Martin of the Scottish Border Reivers team, which managed to place third. Olivier Gendebien achieved his second victory at this event, partnered with his fellow countryman Paul Frère, a sports journalist turned racing driver. Their reliable and swift driving in the #11 Ferrari 250 TR59/60 throughout the race, meant they were never truly threatened, finishing a substantial four laps and over 50 km ahead of the second-placed Ferrari. Four Ferrari 250 GT SWBs finished in positions 4 through 7.


Ferrari 250 TR Le Mans 1961

Ferrari's rivals quickly fell behind in the race. The Maseratis were quick but unreliable and the Aston Martins, while dependable, could not keep up with the speed of the Italian cars. Ultimately, the contest narrowed to the two Ferrari works team cars (#10 and #11) and the entry from the North American Racing Team piloted by the Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez (#17). When the latter team's car broke down with only 2 hours remaining, the Ferrari works team secured a straightforward first and second place.

The Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill-driven #10 Ferrari 250 TRI/61 took the win, followed by the similar car driven by Mike Parkes and Willy Mairesse and the 314 Ferrari GT 250 SWB finished third.


Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Le Mans 1962

At the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari showcased its dominance under challenging conditions, securing a remarkable 1-2-3 victory. The race was marked by varying weather, including a significant rainstorm in the first hour which led to numerous accidents and mechanical failures for competitors. This event underscored the durability and performance of Ferrari's vehicles, as they handled the adverse conditions perfectly.

The top 3 spots were claimed by #6 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM, #19 Ferrari 250 GTO, and #22 Ferrari 250 GTO. This triumph was just another testament to Ferrari’s capability to combine speed with reliability, outperforming a field of strong contenders under harsh racing conditions.


Ferrari 250 P Le Mans 1963

In the 1963 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari once again proved its supremacy in motorsport by securing the first and second places, underlining its exceptional engineering. The race was fraught with challenging weather conditions, including intermittent rain, which tested the resilience and performance of all participants.

Ferrari's vehicles, particularly the #21 Ferrari 250 P driven by Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini, thrived under these tough circumstances, leading to their dominant victory. This performance demonstrated Ferrari's adeptness at combining high speed with exceptional reliability, ensuring a commanding presence on a demanding track and reinforcing its dominant position in the realm of endurance racing.


Ferrari 275 P Le Mans 1964

During the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari excelled by winning amidst tough conditions. The race featured heavy rain at night, creating slippery tracks and poor visibility. Despite this, Ferrari’s vehicles, particularly the #20 Ferrari 275 P driven by Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella, excelled in handling and reliability.

This was yet another Ferrari 1-2-3 finish with Graham Hill and Jo Bonnier in the #14 Ferrari 330 P and John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini in the #19 Ferrari 330 P finishing second and third, respectively.


Ferrari 250 LM Le Mans 1965

Following the underwhelming performance in last year's race, Ford made a comeback with an enhanced version of its GT, fielding 11 cars with Ford engines. In response, Ferrari entered 12 of their vehicles to counter Ford's challenge.

The Fords had a solid start but their reliability problems surfaced again, clearing the path for Ferrari to effortlessly notch their sixth straight victory.

Ferrari adapted well to varying weather conditions, leading to another triumph. The #21 Ferrari 250 LM driven by Pierre Dumay took first place, closely followed by Willy Mairesse and Jean Blaton in the #24 Ferrari 275 GTB, with another Ferrari, the #26 Ferrari 250 LM, capturing third, underscoring another year of Ferrari’s engineering excellence and strategic racing dominance at Le Mans.

1966 and onwards

This six-year span at Le Mans highlighted Ferrari's superiority in dealing with the unpredictable elements and fierce competition, cementing their reputation in the history of endurance racing.

Le Mans 1966 Ford finish.jpg

In 1966, Ferrari's performance at Le Mans was hindered by Ford's technological and numerical superiority. Ford's GT40 Mk II cars featured more powerful engines and the teams had better strategies, while Ferrari faced mechanical issues, including gearbox failures. Ford's larger team and strategic focus were decisive in their dominant victory over Ferrari. During the 1966 edition, they famously finished 1-2-3 with Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Ken Miles, Denny Hulme, Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson.

Ferrari 312PB-73 Le Mans 1973

#16 Ferrari 312PB-73 finished second in the 1973 Le Mans 24 hours.

From 1965 onwards, it took Ferrari an incredible amount of time to climb on the top step in the highest class at Le Mans once more. Manufacturers such as Ford, Porsche, Matra-Simca, and Audi dominated Le Mans, with Ferrari absent from the top class for 50 years since 1973 due to a focus on Formula 1.

Ferrari 499 P Le Mans 2023

Ferrari's return to glory came in 2023 when the #51 Ferrari 499 P clinched victory in the hypercar class. The 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship has been a tough one for Ferrari as of yet, with a current fifth position. Let's hope for another victory during the 2024 edition of the most famous endurance race: Le Mans.

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