Motorsport News

‘It doesn’t get any better’

'It doesn't get any better'

“It’s about time!” Mario Andretti exclaimed. The legend among motor racing’s living legends knows of which he speaks.

A full 50 years after the factory from Maranello made its last official start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari is back, returning to the same international endurance racing stage where its exotic prototype machinery from the 1960s and early-1970s often earned more success for the brand than anything it achieved in Formula One.

Dressed in Ferrari’s traditional colors of red and yellow, the sleek new Ferrari 499Ps will chase a debut win on Friday as the globetrotting FIA World Endurance Championship opens its season with a 1,000-mile contest of speed and stamina at the famed Sebring circuit in Florida. With its name added to the WEC grid, the niche world of sports car racing has received the grandest of spotlights.

“I mean, it’s Ferrari,” says the 82-year-old Andretti, who was signed by the late Enzo Ferrari and produced wins for the Scuderia in F1 and sports cars. “They’re such a big asset to endurance racing. Ferrari officially coming back is huge, no question about it. Speaking for myself, I’ve had many incredible experiences in sports cars with Ferrari. Wherever they go in motor racing, Ferrari are always the top draw.

“I don’t know any manufacturer on this planet that has a bigger fan base than Ferrari. I don’t care where you go, you’ll see people wearing the Ferrari shirts and hats, waving the Ferrari flags. It’s a wonderful thing, and I expect to see all of this happen again in sports car racing.”

Better still, Ferrari’s formal resumption of its prototype racing activities brings a wicked racing rivalry back to life after a half-century pause.

Don’t let “Ford v Ferrari” featuring Matt Damon and Christian Bale fool you. Years before and years after the Ford family spent a fortune to topple and retreat after beating Ferrari at Le Mans, there was Ferrari vs. Porsche.

At legendary places like Le Mans, Daytona, the Nürburgring and Sebring, the slugfest for overall victories between Ferrari and Porsche was sports car racing’s version of the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, our Celtics vs. Lakers. Until, of course, Ferrari exited prototype racing after going head-to-head with Porsche one final time at Le Mans in 1973.

From there, the German automaker took command…

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