1. Everyone wants to win it
The chequered flag has fallen on this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, which means two things: that Toyota has added a fifth overall win to its rapidly climbing tally; and that the countdown is on to the most important event in the history of the world’s greatest motor race – Le Mans 2023.
Why is 2023 such a big deal? Because it’ll be Le Mans back to its spectacular best.
You’ll have noticed that this year’s race, while glorious (the race was held in blistering sunshine and saw the return of packed crowds for the first time since the pandemic), wasn’t exactly bursting with bitter rivalries, fierce competition or close racing. The battle for the overall win was a David-versus-Goliath struggle between plucky Glickenhaus and wealthy Toyota in the hypercar class. Unsurprisingly, Toyota won.
But Le Mans 2023 will heave with quality entries. Glickenhaus and Toyota will be joined by the likes of Ferrari, Peugeot, Porsche, Audi and likely BMW. Le Mans hasn’t seen such strength in depth for a while now, and not since the likes of Toyota, Nissan, Porsche and Audi all fielded cars in the top-tier LMP1 class. And with the hypercar regulations engineered to create ultra-close, super-competitive racing, don’t reckon on getting much sleep at the 2023 race…
2. The hypercar class is the future
The now defunct LMP1 class, while spectacular, was financially ruinous and unsustainable for all but the wealthiest car makers. The cars were every bit as advanced as a Formula 1 car and required similar budgets to create and to race.
The new hypercar class is far more technically restrictive, and the cars lap Le Mans a little more slowly than the old LMP cars. But they’re also far less expensive to engineer and to run. That, together with the fact that the cars use hybrid powertrains relevant to road cars, is why a long list of manufacturers is getting back into endurance racing, in some cases for the first time in years. Ferrari, one of the greatest names in motorsport, hasn’t won Le Mans overall since 1965, and Peugeot is back for the first time in a decade.
3. First run in 1923, Le Mans 2023 is the centenary race
The new rules are responsible for luring this long and glittering list of manufacturers back to sports car racing, but so too is the chance to win the 24 hours of Le Mans on its 100th anniversary. To do so would be to achieve motor racing immortality, and you can be sure that across the world engineers and executives are doing whatever they can to ensure the 2023 trophy comes their way.
‘Ferrari is special by definition, and Le Mans is one of the most important races in the world,’ says Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari’s 150-strong (non-F1) motorsport department and the man leading its hypercar programme. ‘To return to Le Mans was a must, and to do so with a prototype is a dream.’
Can Ferrari win Le Mans 2023? It is surely a favourite, given the hybrid powertrain expertise it has perfected in Formula 1. Whatever happens, just make sure you’re there to see it.