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The 499P: Meet Ferrari’s beautiful new Le Mans hybrid prototype

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The 499P: Meet Ferrari’s beautiful new Le Mans hybrid prototype
The nose of a Ferrari 499P prototype

Enlarge / After 50 years away, Ferrari is building a works endurance prototype again.

Ferrari

IMOLA, ITALY—After a break of 50 years, Ferrari is returning to top-level endurance racing with a new hybrid prototype race car. It’s called the 499P, and in 2023 Ferrari will campaign a pair of cars in the World Endurance Championship, a series with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its crown jewel.

As I’ve written before, 2023 is going to be an exciting time for fans of prototype racing. After the cubic megabucks-era of LMP1h collapsed under the weight of unsustainable budgets, the top class of the World Endurance Championship has spent a few years in the doldrums as Toyota faced minimal opposition from much smaller teams. But the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (which runs the Le Mans race) has a new ruleset now, called LMH (Le Mans Hypercar), designed to attract the interest of automakers by keeping costs sane—€30 million versus the €80-200 million that LMP1h cost—and, with less reliance on aerodynamic downforce, allowing for a closer visual link to their road-going products.

The 499P might be the prettiest LMH car to date. You'll detect styling cues from cars like the new 296 GTB at the nose.

Enlarge / The 499P might be the prettiest LMH car to date. You’ll detect styling cues from cars like the new 296 GTB at the nose.

And so far, it’s working. Toyota was first to LMH with its GR010, followed by boutique manufacturer Glickenhaus, then this year saw Peugeot ease its way back into to endurance racing with its new 9X8—still not sporting a rear wing—ahead of a full campaign in 2023. But none of those brands have quite the same magic as Ferrari. Even though it last won Le Mans outright in 1965, it still has more of those overall wins (nine) than Toyota (five) and Peugeot (three) combined, trailing just Audi (13) and Porsche (19).

The fact that the new ruleset has brought Ferrari back to the sport means it should be considered a success already, though the Formula 1 cost cap might have played a part as the company found itself with resources it could no longer employ towards that championship.

Sorry, but this is about to get complicated

Now, it wouldn’t really be sportscar racing if it wasn’t needlessly complicated, and so in addition to LMH, there’s another new ruleset for hybrid prototype endurance race cars written for the International Motor Sports Association’s championship here in North America called LMDh.

LMDh is more technically proscriptive; each automaker is required to use one of four approved carbon fiber chassis or spines as their starting point, and the gearbox, electric motor, and battery are all spec components. But like LMH, there’s much less reliance on aerodynamic downforce and so the cars can look more like the ones you might find in a showroom. It too has worked, with new cars racing in 2023 from Porsche, BMW, Acura, and Cadillac. Audi’s planned return has been shelved in favor of a Formula 1 program, but Lamborghini will arrive in 2024.

Two competing sets of sportscar regulations usually works out badly for everyone, but happily in this case the ACO and IMSA are allowing both LMH and LMDh cars to enter their races, with performance balancing to ensure as level a playing field as possible.

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Ashley is a professional writer and editor with a strong background in tech and pop culture. She has written for high traffic websites such as Polygon, Kotaku, StarWars.com, and Nerdist. In her off time, she enjoys playing video games, reading science fiction novels, and hanging out with her rescue greyhound.

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Tesla finally delivers its first production Semi

Five years after CEO Elon Musk officially unveiled his Semi, Tesla’s electrified tractor trailer, the company delivered its first official production vehicle to Pepsi on Thursday during its “Semi Delivery Event” held at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory. The beverage maker has ordered 100 of the vehicles in total.

First shown off in 2017, the Tesla Semi originally was set to retail for $150,000 and $180,000 for the 300- and 500-mile versions, respectively. Those prices are significantly higher than the $60k a standard diesel cab runs but Tesla estimates that its vehicles can operate 20 percent more efficiently (2kWh per mile, Musk revealed Thursday), and save up to $250,000 over the million-mile life of the Semi.

Each rig is “designed like a bullet,” Musk said at the vehicle’s unveiling, and would come equipped with a massive 1MW battery pack. This reportedly offers a 20-second 0-60, which is impressive given that these vehicles are towing up to 80,000 pounds at a time, and a spent-to-80 percent charge time of just 30 minutes. The Semis are also outfitted with Enhanced Autopilot capabilities, as well as jackknife-mitigation systems, blind-spot sensors and data-logging for fleet management.

As reservations opened in 2017, Musk said at the time, deliveries would begin two short years later, in 2019. By April 2020, Tesla had officially pushed that delivery date back to 2021, citing production delays and supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, just two months after that, in May of 2020, Musk sent a company-wide email reading, “It’s time to go all out and bring the Tesla Semi to volume production. It’s been in limited production so far, which has allowed us to improve many aspects of the design,” as seen by CNBC. In the same email he confirmed that production would take place in Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.

Cut to July, 2021, and the new delivery date has been pushed again, this time to 2022, citing both the ongoing global processor shortage and its own pandemic-limited battery production capability for the new 4680 style cells as contributing factors.

“We believe we remain on track to build our first Model Y vehicles in Berlin and Austin in 2021,” Musk said during the company’s Q2, 2021 investor call. “The pace of the respective production ramps will be influenced by the successful introduction of many new product and manufacturing technologies, ongoing supply-chain-related challenges and regional permitting.”

“To better focus on these factories, and due to the limited availability of battery cells and global supply chain challenges, we have shifted the launch of the Semi truck program to 2022,” he continued. Beginning in May of this year, Tesla started actively taking reservations again for a $20,000 deposit. “And first deliveries are now,” Musk said on Thursday before welcoming Kirk Tanner, CEO PepsiCo Beverages North America, and Steven Williams, CEO PepsiCo Foods North America, on stage for high fives and handshakes.

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