Maranello, 20 December 2023 – From the victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Ferrari 499P and at the Nürburgring with the 296 GT3 to the results in the main production-derived championships. Antonello Coletta, Global Head of Endurance and Corse Clienti, looks back at the excitement and achievements of the 2023 season.
Coletta, what was the most exciting moment for you this year?
I want to mention two moments, the Sebring and Le Mans races, for different reasons. In America, on our debut in the FIA WEC, we came up against our rivals for the first time: tension ran high until the Thursday before the race, but from free practice onwards, I realised the car was very quick and started to feel optimistic. And a podium on the debut was fantastic. However, at Le Mans, the lead-up to the race was different, with a different mix of feelings. The pressure in the run-up was greater. We knew we were competitive and confirmed our credentials in qualifying, finishing with a first and a second place. However, we were still tense during the race until dawn on Sunday (11 June, ed.), when we gradually realised our potential and our optimism grew. The joy felt at the finish line is beyond description.
What Ferrari did at Le Mans will stick in the memory of many fans: what were the keys to success?
What we did at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is undoubtedly unique, a page inscribed in motorsport history. Returning to compete in the top class after half a century and taking the Prancing Horse back to victory, 58 years after the success in 1965 with the 250 LM driven by Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory, was an extraordinary achievement. During the race, we never made a mistake with a pit stop, a strategy or a driver’s choice. Everyone showed great clarity. To win a 24 Hours of Le Mans, you need an excellent car but also great organisation of the entire team. I think it was the highlight of my professional career to date and that of the co-workers I had alongside me.”
Going back in time, before the 499P’s debut in the FIA WEC, would you have thought you could end such a successful season with the runner-up spot in the Constructors’ standings, plus third and fourth in the Drivers’ standings?
In late 2022, when we were busy with development testing, we had some doubts about the immediate future: If they’d told me we’d win the year’s biggest race, take pole position at Sebring and Le Mans, and be on the podium in six of the season’s seven races, I would have found it hard to believe.
So what were the ‘secrets’ behind the teamwork during the 499P’s development and the championship?
We developed a car that has proved very fast and reliable, as we saw throughout the season, in just eight months, from the first Shakedown on 6 July 2022 to the race debut at Sebring in March 2023. Two factors were essential to achieve these goals: the passion and professionalism shown by everyone involved in the project.
In the GT sector, the 296 GT3, a competition car derived from the 296 GTB, debuted in 2023: how do you rate the year?
Undoubtedly, 2023 was a year of transition in GT racing, which saw us turn the page on the past. The 296 GT3 is a clean-sheet design compared to the previous model, the 488 GT3 Evo 2020. A very different car, starting with the V6 engine, the first six-cylinder used by Ferrari in the recent GT racing era. Given all this, we knew we would face a year in which reliability and competitiveness would be essential. We had many problems on our debut at the 24 Hours at Daytona and in the first months. The most frequent was the difficulty in dialoguing with the competent sports authorities to develop the best BoP (Balance of Performance, ed.). Expectations were high surrounding the debut of the 296 GT3, which proved extremely fast on all stretches of the track, so they penalised it in terms of power. However, the conditions gradually allowed us to express ourselves better during the year. We gained some important results, and in September, we took a one-two in the GT World Challenge Europe – Endurance Cup in Barcelona.
Indeed, the 296 GT3 wrote a page of history by winning the 24 Hours of Nürburgring…
A great success, the first for Ferrari in the history of the prestigious German event, this year in its 51st edition, which came perhaps unexpectedly courtesy of a team such as Frikadelli Racing, which placed its trust in us, competing with the Prancing Horse for the first time this year. At the Nürburgring, the car displayed its full potential in terms of performance and reliability. And after a long and hard-fought race, it triumphed on one of the world’s most iconic tracks.
With this in mind, what are the goals for 2024?
In the Hypercar class of the FIA WEC, we will start with an awareness of what we proved in 2023. The journey is only beginning, and we will aim to be a constant presence in the battle for the world title. In GT racing, the potential shown by the 296 GT3 bodes well for the future, in a season when we will have to progress in knowledge and evolution of the car in the major international championships.