There is no need for me to talk about Ferrari winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, because Ferrari will be telling us about it for at least another 50-odd years. (The team’s last 24LM overall victory was 1965.) But this is a uniquely humorous win, for mostly one good reason.
Before the specific comedy of Ferrari’s win, let’s look at the other possible winners:
Toyota: This would be a vindication for the team, but it’d be kind of a bummer for a bunch of new manufacturers to jump into the World Endurance Championship only to lose to the old guy in the back of the bar who has been here since two in the afternoon, metaphorically.
Peugeot: I remember rooting for Peugeot in my old “Anyone But Audi” diesel days, and it was fun to see the team leading the race during the small hours of the night. These are, as any Le Mans fan knows, the “Shenanigans Hours” when the top teams are basically catching their breath before they actually duke it out around dawn. Nobody can take the wingless Peugeot all that seriously, and if the team won, we’d just be talking about how the ballast was mis-allocated.
Porsche: If anything, we got the funniest possible outcome for this race in that Porsche finished behind everybody else including Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, a team so small and plucky that they let us drive their car. As we noted, there was only one thing to expect from Porsche and Penske. Nobody was more of a favorite. To really nail down the symbolism of this loss, the No. 38 Porsche 963 crashed out of the lead in the Porsche Curves. Porsche has won Le Mans so many times that part of the La Sarthe circuit is named after it, and that’s where Porsche wrecked. Incredible.
Cadillac: This is kind of a wash because the Cadillac is loud and proud and finished on the podium, doing better than most. GM has tons of provenance at Le Mans (Corvette came from behind to win its GT class this year, for example), but it’s simply not as silly as Ferrari’s narrative. Cadillac worked hard and built a good car that performed well.
Ferrari: The most humorous possible choice. The Ferrari team exists, basically, as a jobs program to keep extra guys from the F1 team employed. Without the Le Mans program they might otherwise have been let go under F1’s cost caps. That Keanu and The Replacements won while Ferrari’s main F1 team still can’t make it happen is incredible for sports car nerds.
The juxtaposition isn’t about the team either. Ferrari’s top F1 driver, Charles Leclerc, was once a junior driver for the Ferrari-powered Sauber F1 team before graduating up to the full red jumpsuit. His teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, did not make the cut, even though he was extremely qualified. (That is, he had nice hair and came from relatively humble beginnings, certainly by F1 standards.) That Giovinazzi racked up the biggest win in sports car racing while Leclerc is stuck without a good enough car to get him a championship title … that’s funny!
Again, there is no real need for me, personally, to champion Ferrari, the biggest name in racing in the entire world. But I’m still happy that it will have something to talk about beyond the time it finished 1-2-3 around Daytona in 1967, or that it beat Ford in 1965 before losing all the way through 1973.
Road & Track’s Deputy Editor who once got a Dakar-winning race truck stuck in a sand dune, and rolled a Baja Bug off an icy New York road, and went flying off Mount Washington in a Nissan 240SX rally car, and…