Technology analysis: Ferrari Le Mans racer 499P

50 years after the last works Ferrari, the Reds are returning to the top class of endurance racing with the new 499P. A highly complex racing car was developed in Maranello, which is apparently already very durable and fast and, on top of that, looks spectacular and sounds hearty - a real Ferrari, after all. We show what was still hidden from the others.

At the Ferrari world finale in Imola last weekend, two pit garages were reserved for something very special: muscle-bound security staff guarded the location with eagle eyes, admission was only for a few, only with a special invitation and only after the Masking off all phone lenses. On Friday (10/28) Ferrari presented the new 499P, long before the official press release came out on Saturday evening. Ferrari called and everyone came: top customers, VIP guests, management, the media.

1973 was the last time a thoroughbred works Ferrari competed in long-distance racing. The old 312PB was not a high-flyer, but it does provide nice reminiscences: because of the 50th anniversary, the works 499P will be starting next year with the numbers 50 and 51 in the sports car world championship. The number 499 stands for the displacement of the individual cylinders, multiplied by six that makes three liters of displacement. And of course the P stands for prototype.

Real single-seater with aero cascades

History is an old story and the name is smoke and mirrors? Alright, let's work our way through the hard facts. The main focus was obviously on design and aerodynamics, where the 499P boasts a number of notable solutions that are immediately apparent. With its flat pane and narrow dimensions, the cockpit appears elegantly stretched and no longer as bubble-shaped as in the old LMP1 class. It is clear from the dimensions that the hypercars are now real single-seaters with a roof, while the historic mandate of two-seaters still shimmered through in the LMP1.

The second thing that stands out: The rear section, like the central components of the front aerodynamics, has a cascade-like arrangement, analogous to the current F1 front wings, for example, where several layers of the same shape are staggered one after the other. The 499P has a triple cascade of wings at the front under the bonnet, and at the rear the Italians stack three aero elements on top of each other with the engine cover, intermediate wing and rear wing - we'll come back to that again.

Thirdly, the 499P shines with low, no-frills sidepods that only have small lateral indentations. Up until now, the LMP1 cars routed a large part of the incoming air between the chassis and the two front wheels and around the bulbous middle section of the chassis. A large part of this flow was cut off at the rear for cooling.

Air divider for safety

On the 499P, the lower outlets behind the front wheels and the indentations in front of the rear wheels are extremely small, the sidepods are almost closed at the sides, whereas they used to be wide open. This can only mean that a lot of air is directed through the chassis via flow, which also serves the engine cooling. There are no cooling air outlets in the rear body kit area, the cooling heat escapes as well as the engine waste heat in a wide gap between the diffuser roof and the engine cover.

The fourth eye-catcher in terms of design and aerodynamics is the elegant integration of the airbox, fin and the transition to the rear fairing. The airbox has three intakes: the air intake for the engine and left and right ducts that ventilate the engine compartment and cool the batteries and transmission. The fin connects seamlessly to the airbox, below the assemblies merge with the engine cover. Before we go into more detail, many premiere attendees noticed the vertical air splitters found throughout the car, including the hood, roof, wheel arches and rear wing.

They are not used to channel the air, but to increase longitudinal aerodynamic stability. A hypercar shouldn't take off in the event of tire or suspension damage, the large rear fin reduces the take-off speed at dangerous turning angles - and the so-called strakes on the 499P also contribute to this.

Cut-out on the front splitter

As mentioned, the F1 borrowings are obvious in the cascade-shaped wing arrangement: At the front, three staggered wing elements work together - but to see that, you have to get on your knees in front of the red goddess . The first element is the protruding front splitter, which has a large center indentation (cut-out), i.e. a wide section that has been raised to direct more air under the car and thus defuse the pitch susceptibility.

Behind the curved front splitter is a second element with the same contour, followed by a third element that acts directly on the chassis and whose rear end is even more inclined upwards. The two front elements are held by stilts, the last cascade is supported on the front part of the chassis. It can be seen that the elements have an adjustment function. This is interesting because the regulations only give the hypercar manufacturers one tool for trimming the aero balance: either via the wings at the front or via the elements at the back. The target is to ensure that aero costs remain within reasonable bounds.

Ferrari hasn't decided yet whether to trim the front or rear balance: "We've done 12,000 kilometers of testing, but we haven't decided yet whether we're going to control the front or rear trim," says Ferrari project manager Ferdinando Cannizzo.This decision will only be made in the second test phase, which has already begun and will run until the final homologation in mid-January, where maximum performance is the priority.

The prevailing opinion was that the rear trim was the more stable variant, but Ferrari could deviate from this basic trend with the complex aero layout at the front. So far, all LMDh manufacturers from America (Cadillac, BMW, Acura, Porsche) trim their cars over the rear wing. The Hypercar regulations offer more technical freedom in design than in the LMDh class - and Ferrari could use this freedom. "Our goal was to combine maximum performance and optimal tire use over the stint," says Cannizzo about the concept. For this reason, as much downforce as possible should be generated close to the wheel, while Ferrari wanted to keep air resistance low. That's why there are no side flaps in front of the wheel house, and that's why there are only a few cooling air inlets and outlets.

Lots of effort on the Aero

This resulted in a clean, elegant design. "Ferrari traditionally stands for the perfect combination of design and performance," says Cannizzo. Apart from the red color, the 499P with its curved shapes is immediately recognizable as a Ferrari, and the characteristically narrow headlights from the 296 GTB model have been integrated.

The design suggests that airflow plays a key role, allowing the sidepods to be kept flat and closed. "The performance window for aerodynamics is relatively small, but we're trying to take advantage of the hypercar rules to the maximum," says Cannizzo. Ferrari did not hang the rear wing on a gooseneck: lateral stilts with gills, as well as the central fin and a central web, fix the wing, which has a fixed blade and an adjustable blade.

There is also a second horizontal wing element on the middle level at the level of the upper wheelhouse end. The rear diffuser rises continuously early on, around the level of the rear indentation of the side boxes, with the two large expansion channels becoming wider and higher towards the rear. Overall, it can be seen that Ferrari is trying to use the leeway in the hypercar regulations to make the difference in aerodynamics - especially in the area of ​​front aero and flow. Peugeot has already demonstrated the trend by omitting the rear wing.

V6 as the golden mean?

For the time being, there are no surprises when it comes to the drive, also because Ferrari is very economical with information. It was known that the engine concept came from the 296 GTB, i.e. a V6 biturbo with a bank angle of 120 degrees, with the turbochargers being at the top of the cylinder V. However, the three-liter racing engine is designed as a fully load-bearing element and therefore does not require a subframe or rear frame."The block was reinforced, because it carries the transmission and has to absorb the forces from the chassis," says Cannizzo, "but the engine is much lighter than in a road car."

According to Cannizzo, a thoroughbred racing engine was only briefly considered, but firstly the series reference was too important, secondly the V6 biturbo fulfilled the specifications of the racing department. Interesting: All hypercar manufacturers rely on V6 biturbos, the only difference is the displacement. At 3.0 liters, Ferrari is almost in the middle between Toyota (3.5 liters) and Peugeot (2.6 liters). Power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed racing transmission.

The hypercars drive (like the LMDh from America) with a combined system output of 500 kW (680 hp) from combustion engines and hybrids. The hybrid system can deliver up to 200 kW, but the system output must never be exceeded: So if hybrid is used, the combustion output must be reduced at the same time. When it comes to hybrids, Ferrari is tight-lipped: recuperation takes place via the brakes, which means brake-by-wire is set. The recuperated energy is stored in 900-volt ambient batteries mounted on the floor under the vehicle's fuel tank.

Since the hybrid package puts a good 60 kilos on the front axle, even the combustion engine was moved slightly to the rear. The hybrid performance is boosted via the MGU on the front axle - Ferrari doesn't want to say much more. The Italians are sniffed, because the convergence with the American LMDh cars means that the self-developed hybrid system is not a differentiator, the advantages of the front diff have also been eliminated. Perhaps one reason why the 499P is the only (!) representative of the new prototypes that does not have the Hybrid name suffix.

Difficult brake setup

As stipulated by the regulations, the new Ferrari hypercar must weigh at least 1030 kilos, the high weight puts the new LMP cars closer to the GT cars, even if the level of downforce is significantly higher. "You can feel the higher downforce and the higher engine output immediately, but you also notice the higher weight," says James Calado, Ferrari's hypercar driver. "You can only feel the use of hybrids on the straights, because we are only allowed to use hybrids from 190 km/h, so it doesn't do much in terms of traction. I was amazed at how well the brakes can be dosed despite the recuperation, but it is It's pretty tricky to find the right setup with brake-by-wire. If the setup isn't right, you immediately have a problem."

Calado is particularly impressed by the cockpit: "The seating position is great, you lie more in the car than in a GT car, the pedals are also much higher up. I was amazed at how good the driver's view is, there Ferrari did a great job."

The central point in the specifications, i.e. the combination of peak performance and optimal tire use over the stint, has of course still to be worked out. "We have a wide adjustment range for the kinematics, plus double wishbones and pushrods, it already works very well ", says Calado. The tires are the moving target: Ferrari switched to the US sizes (290 mm at the front, 340 mm at the rear) during the concept phase, in contrast to its competitor Peugeot. "Since some advantages of the hybrid system are lost, the change made From our point of view, there isn't a big difference in tire width, in the end it comes down to tire use - that's the big adjusting screw in the competition," says Cannizzo Beech The new 499P could improve the statistics significantly in the coming years...


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