The LM of course stands for Le Mans, and from Enzo Ferrari’s point of view at least, that’s where the Berlinetta’s future lay: It would become the natural successor to the Ferrari 250 GTO that had been so dominant in the Group 3 Grand Touring Cars racing category for the early half of that decade.
The 250 GTO, a big front-engine V12, 280 km/hr Ferrari, had been introduced in 1962 and would prove itself as the endurance car to beat, winning everywhere from the Tour de France and the Targa Florio to Le Mans and the Nürburgring 1000km.
But time, and the competition, were slowly catching up with the 250 GTO and by 1963 Enzo had already decided on its successor, the faster, lighter 250 LM. Unfortunately, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) had other ideas and refused to homologate it as a GT car (Ferrari needed to make 100 production cars before the it could become eligible for the Group 3 class), forcing the 250 LM to step up and race in the prototype category.
"To start an idea, you always must look forward, but Ferrari connects our new ideas to the past." Flavio Manzoni, Senior Vice President of Design, Ferrari.
Essentially a Berlinetta version of the 250 P, a 1963 prototype that had won Ferrari the Sport-Prototype world title with wins at Sebring, Le Mans and Nürburgring, the 250 LM quickly established itself as more than capable on the endurance circuit, despite finding itself in the unenviable situation of lining up against some formidable, purpose-built Ferrari prototypes such as the four-litre V12 330P and the 275 P, with which it shared the same engine.
It didn’t matter, the 250 LM was up to the task, and in 1964 it won at several long demanding circuits, including Reims 12 hours and Kyalami 9 hours. The car had proved itself both fast and reliable, two attributes essential in the world of endurance racing, and a year later, at the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans, no less than five Ferrari 250 LMs appeared on the grid, all owned by privateers. It would take 348 laps before a 250 LM would cross the finish line first, piloted by Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt for the North American Racing Team, followed closely by another 250 LM, owned by privateer Pierre Dumay.
Enzo Ferrari argued that the 250 LM was the natural successor to the 250 GTO and therefore eligible to compete in the Group 3 class. In reality, the 250 LM was a Berlinetta version of the 250 P
After the 250 LM in 1963 there came more racing success through prototypes such as the now legendary 330 P3 / P4 and the 320 km/hr 312 P which came second at Le Mans, but in 1973 the decision was made to quit sports car racing and turn the Prancing Horse spotlight firmly on F1. The 1965 Le Mans victory would to be the last title for Ferrari at the circuit, and somewhat fittingly, the 250 LM would be the last Prancing Horse to claim the win.