Three generations that share the experience – a dream for many motorsport enthusiasts – of competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The record-breaking story is recounted by Peter Mann, the driver who has taken part twice, in 2014 and 2015, in the world’s most famous endurance race, at the wheel of the Ferrari 458 Italia. “My grandfather Pierre Louis-Dreyfus competed 11 times in the race in France between 1931 and 1955, winning twice,” recounts the driver, who was born in 1956. “When I heard his stories, I began to dream of a day when I could race there too – a goal I’ve managed to accomplish. And now it’s my son Simon, who competes with the Prancing Horse’s 488 GTE, taking forward the family tradition.”
The beginnings. In the relationship between the Mann family and the Maranello-based manufacturer, one date was to prove crucial: 1949. That year, following the end of the Second World War, Pierre Louis-Dreyfus – who registered for the various races under different pseudonyms, the most famous of which, “Heldé”, combined the initials of his name – returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe at the wheel of a Ferrari 166 MM, together with Jean Lucas.
In that race a second, identical, car was used by Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon, who made history by celebrating overall victory – the first of nine wins achieved by Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “Unfortunately, that time my grandfather was forced to retire, but he would return to race in the years that followed at the wheel of various models, including the 340 America and the 750 Monza, the last Ferrari he started with in 1955,” says Peter Mann.
The project. Those chapters in the family history helped fuel Peter Mann’s growing fascination for cars. “Ever since I was a child, all I thought about was racing cars,” he explains. “I don’t remember exactly the first time I went to Le Mans as a spectator, I was 15 or 16; with my friends I took up a position above the roof of the pits to watch the race.”
Meanwhile, his passion turned into a project: the start of his sporting career and the attempt to achieve his dream of starting on the Le Mans grid as a driver. After competing in the Le Mans Classic in 2012, Peter Mann met Amato Ferrari, the founder of AF Corse. Mann took part in the first tests on the Valencia track with AF Corse, after the Ferrari Finali Mondiali in the same year. The following season the driver began competing with the Prancing Horse in Europe and in 2014 made his debut in the French 24 Hours race. “In 2014 we were forced to retire, while the following year we finished fifth in the LMGTE Am class with the 458 GTE, an extraordinary car which I still use today in Club Competizioni GT events” recounts Mann.
The present and the future. Simon Mann has taken up the baton from great-grandfather and father. A three-time winner of the Italian GT Championship with the 488 GT3 in the Pro-Am class, Simon returns to Le Mans in June 2023 with the 488 GTE of AF Corse alongside Julien Piguet and Ulysse de Pauw. “It will be an extraordinary race with the 499P in the Hypercar class and my son in the LMGTE Am,” says Peter Mann. “I’m hoping for a great result in both categories. For me, endurance racing is part of Ferrari’s DNA; it’s a fantastic type of racing and environment, which I’m really happy to be able to be a part of.”