Le Mans, 15 June 2016 - The 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans began with the first qualifying session. Drivers and vehicles will compete in the world's toughest race from 3pm on Saturday to 3pm on Sunday on one of the most challenging tracks in the world with its 38 bends and 13,629 metres. The 60 cars lined up at the start will include eight Ferraris, three 488s entered in the GTE-Pro class, and five 458 Italias in the GTE-Am class.
The perfect debut.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans dates back to 1923. Ferrari has won the French endurance classic on nine occasions, getting also 25 class victories. Its debut in 1949 was perfect: Italy's Luigi Chinetti brought in British aristocrat Lord Selsdon, aka Peter Mitchell-Thomson, who financed the purchase of two Ferrari 166 MMs. Chinetti drove for most of the race, passing the baton to Selsdon only after building up a very substantial lead. The first victory with an official car came in 1954, when Argentina's Jose Froilán González and France's Maurice Trintignant won for Scuderia Ferrari in a 375 Plus. Ferrari again topped the podium in 1958 when America's Phil Hill and Belgium's Olivier Gendebien in a Ferrari 250 TR58, beat off an Aston Martin.
After another class victory in 1959, Ferrari began its golden years at Le Mans with six wins in a row and an unprecedented domination on the Sarthe circuit. In 1960 Gendebien, with the driver and journalist Paul Frere, triumphed in an official 250 TR59/60. The following year, the Belgian made it three along with Hill in a 250 TRI/61. Indeed, that year the podium was all Ferrari with Willy Mairesse and Mike Parkes in second and Pierre Noblet and Jean Guichet third. There was another all Ferrari podium the year after when Hill and Gendebien triumphed once again with the 330 TRI/LM Spider. It was total domination in 1963, with victory, two class wins and the top six places in the rankings. The triumph was all Italian, with Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini in the 250 P. The following year Vaccarella and Guichet won with the 275 P, while 1965 saw the last overall victory when the North American Racing Team won with Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt. Since then there have been 15 other victories in different classes.
The race is now part of the GT World Endurance Championship (WEC), with Ferraris competing in the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes. Three of the new GTE 488s will race in the GTE-Pro class, which is only open to professional drivers. The 488 is the first Ferrari GT fitted with a turbo since the F40 in the late 1980's. Two of the vehicles will compete for AF Corse and one for the US team Risi Competizione. Gianmaria "Gimmi" Bruni, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado will drive car no. 51 for the Italian team, while no. 71 which is leading the WEC after two races, will be entrusted to Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Andrea Bertolini. No. 82 of Risi Competizione will be in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli.
Ferrari is also vying for victory in the GTE Am category, where it has five cars, two of them under the AF Corse team banner. These are no. 55, with Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Alex Mortimer, and no. 83, a usual WEC competitor, driven by François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas. Ferrari's last victory in this class came in 2015, with the 458 Italia of SMP Racing team crewed by Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaytar and Aleksey Basov. Two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Thursday, both lasting two hours, with the first starting at 7 pm and the second at 10 pm.
#51 AF Corse
; #71 AF Corse
; #82 Risi Competizione
; #55 AF Corse
; #60 Formula Racing
; #61 #Clearwater Racing
; #62 Scuderia Corsa
; #83 AF Corse