Ferrari believed repeat Le Mans win was ‘impossible’ task

© XPB 

Ferrari downplayed their chances in the lead-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, believing their 499P Hypercar lacked the raw pace to match their rivals. But the race would tell a different story.

The Italian manufacturer’s cautious approach to the blue riband endurance event was justified by its own internal data and compounded by its car’s performance in practice and in qualifying.

Ferrari’s sportscar boss Antonella Coletta even described the team’s task of repeating its 2023 win in the Sarthe as “impossible”.

When the flag dropped on Saturday and the field was unleashed , all three Ferrari entries surged forward, grabbing the lead in the opening hour.

And they remained in contention throughout the first part of the race, adapting superbly to the unpredictable weather conditions that switched between wet and dry spells.

There were moments of drama, particularly for the race-winning #50 car. Less than two hours from the checkered flag, Nicklas Nielsen encountered a malfunctioning right-hand door that wouldn't close.

This forced an unscheduled pitstop for the AF Corse-run team, but their quick thinking and execution kept them ahead. The #50 Ferrari crossed the finish line first, a remarkable 14 seconds ahead of the #7 Toyota, securing a stunning victory that defied all pre-race expectations.

“We arrived [here] like not the favourites," said Coletta after the race. "I remember after the first test on Sunday and the FP1, FP2 and FP3 my idea was that without a special race with the problem of the weather, with the change of the weather or the other problem it was impossible for us to win.

“After the start of the race we were competitive but as you know very well the 24 Hours of Le Mans [can] change each part of the day. If you are competitive at the start, [you] can not [be] sure you will be competitive at the end.

“In fact during the 24 hours, a lot of cars were in the first position during the race. And for us it has been very complicated because we started with two penalties for the #83 and the #51 [carried over from qualifying].

“After that I don't remember how many penalties we received but [it was] a lot. We [also] had a problem with the door. [But] we won for the second year and we are very, very happy.”

After the race, a beaming Nielsen expressed how much it meant to him to be part of Ferrari's historic feat – back-to-back victories at le Mans.

“It was, to be honest, a very long one,” he said. “Especially after the issue we had with the door…I actually thought everything was lost. I knew the pace was really good in the wet by the end. I mean, it was a very long last lap as well.

“I don’t even know what to say. It’s just amazing to be here, to finally win the race that I’ve always wanted to win.

“Seeing the sister car win it last year, was obviously a proud moment for everyone. And then, I think for us to take it this year – it’s an even greater achievement to do it back-to-back.”

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