In keeping with the grand 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an iconic Italian brand wants to return to racing. The manufacturer Isotta Fraschini, which was only revived this year, is already planning to use a hybrid prototype for the coming season of the Sports Car World Championship (WEC). This is what the ambitious plans look like.
Isotta Fraschini's greatest success dates back to the 24-hour race in Le Mans: in 1908, the Milan car manufacturer, founded eight years earlier, won the now legendary Targa Florio. Even then, the long-distance race on the rough mountain roads of Sicily was considered a massive challenge and brought the winner plenty of technical prestige. Factory driver Vincenzo Trucco prevailed there against the equally young competition from Fiat and S.P.A. through - and Isotta Fraschini finally on the automotive map.
But despite initial successes with luxury vehicles, a fate quickly threatened, which numerous emerging car manufacturers had to endure in the first half of the last century. Economic crises and the two world wars initially hit the company hard and forced several management changes. Insolvency proceedings in 1949 finally caused the car division to disappear into historical oblivion. Industrial engines were then manufactured under the evocative name.
Capital from Colombia, debut before Le Mans
Accordingly, this year's announcement that the brand is to return as both an electric boutique manufacturer and a racing team came as a surprise. The brain behind the revival is Colombian Frank Kanayet Yepes, who made his money in the oil industry but has been investing in electrification for many years. Among other things, he was one of the first supporters of Formula E. His management team also includes former Alfa and Maserati man Alfredo Reboa.
Even before the first electric car rolls off the assembly line, Kanayet Yepes and Co. want to compete in the WEC sports car world championship with a Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) next season. The launch of the youngest offshoot of the race should take place in February. The reincarnation's big return to racing is planned for the third race at Spa-Francorchamps at the end of April – the classic dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In contrast to the other private hypercar projects by Glickenhaus and Vanwall Vandervell (formerly ByKolles), the Italians want to start there with a hybrid engine. They chose a turbocharged 3-liter V6 for the combustion engine, and a 200-kilowatt front electric motor makes the Tipo 6 LMH-C an all-wheel racer.
Cooperation with former Ferrari partner
Isotta Fraschini relies on various well-known suppliers for the technology. Brembo contributes the braking system, Xtrac the transmission, Multimatic the suspension, PWR the cooling and Williams Advanced Engineering the battery.The former Formula 1 spin-off is also said to have helped with aerodynamics. Nothing is known about the origin of the motor, but two specialists, Pankl and Bosch, are working on the implementation of the drive.
The Italian racing specialist Michelotto is responsible for the design, coordination and development of the ambitious project. The Padua-based company has been building Ferrari's GT3 and GTE cars for the last few years, but recently lost in the tender process to motorsport manufacturer Oreca, which is also based in Le Mans. With the Ferrari 333SP from the 1990s, which was designed purely for customer racing, Michelotto already has an illustrious prototype in its portfolio.
Should the very expensive dreams actually become reality, Isotta Fraschini will face the ultimate competition. Cadillac, Peugeot, Porsche, Toyota and the local rivals Ferrari, whose founder Enzo himself drove Isotta Fraschini products several times, have registered for the 100-year racing celebration in Le Mans in the hypercar top class.