Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ferrari's last Le Mans winner at Goodwood Revival

It could have been Enzo's biggest failure - but in the end, the 250 LM turned out to be the last Ferrari to win the Le Mans 24 Hours
Ferrari 250 LM front
Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell will race a 250 LM at the Goodwood Revival Photo: Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions
The 250 series is today Ferrari’s most sought after, and while the 250 GTO is the most valuable of the lot, it is the 250 LM – of the type that Derek Bell is racing in the RAC TT Celebration at the Goodwood Revival this afternoon - which was the last Ferrari to win France’s most famous motor race.
The LM was developed from the 250 P (for “Prototype”), a car which was almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the 250 series, thanks to its mid- rather than front-engined layout. Indeed, it was Ferrari’s first mid-engined racing sports car, following hot on the heels of the first mid-engined Ferrari Formula One car, the “shark nose” 156.
The 250 LM kept the 250 P’s layout, and with the exception of the first few examples, which were powered by the 250 P’s 3.0-litre engine, all used a 3.3-litre V12 rated at 320bhp.
When it was conceived, the LM was meant to replace the 250 GTO as Ferrari’s Group 3 Grand Touring competitor for the 1964 season. However, when the company suggested it was merely a modified version of the road-going, front-engined 250 GT, the motor racing authorities disagreed, meaning Ferrari would have to produce 100 250 LMs to race the car in Group 3.
Ferrari 250 LM interiorFerrari claimed the 250 LM was a road car, but it was built for racing
That was an unattainable number, of course, for a car which was designed to be a racer. So the only way Ferrari could enter the 250 LM was as a prototype – something of a problem, because it already had the much faster 275 P and 330 P models in that class.
Consequently, the 250 LM found itself without a raison d’etre for the 1964 season. And while Ferrari did manage to sell a few to private teams, the only example entered in that year’s Le Mans, by the North American Racing Team (NART), failed to even make the start.

Instead, it was at the following year’s race that it all came good. Most of the other prototypes failed to finish due to reliability issues or crashes – even Ferrari’s cutting-edge 330 P2 Spyders. And as a result, it was a 250 LM, again entered by NART and driven by Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory, which swpt to victory. Who'd have thought then that we'd still be waiting for another Ferrari winner 50 years on.

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