How a 12-volt battery almost put a stick in Ferrari's Centenary spokes
Ferrari’s historic win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary might well have been scuppered by an electronic issue. Fortunately for the Italian manufacturer, a close-knit team and a trio of determined drivers saved the day.
Sunday 11 June 2023, 10:32. Ferrari AF Corse driver Alessandro Pier Guidi brings the #51 Ferrari 499P in for fuel. But something was awry. The pit stop dragged on and on. The onboard camera showed Pier Guidi pressing various buttons but the Prancing Horse refused to budge. Then, as if by magic, the twin turbo-powered V6 sprang into life. The Italian camp breathed a collective sigh of relief! However, on the final stop for fuel, 25 minutes from the chequered flag, the gremlin reared its head once again. Would the problem quash the Italian manufacturer’s dream of victory? Not at all! Pier Guidi repeated the procedure and set off again on his quest for a historic success. “It was more stressful the first time the car failed to restart,” said Antonello Coletta, Head of Ferrari Attività Sportive GT. “As it didn’t reoccur on the following two refuelling stops, we’d almost forgotten about it when it happened again on the final pit stop.”
"Human endeavour still has its place at Le Mans and that’s what makes this race so special"
Antonello Coletta, Head of Ferrari Attività Sportive GT
So, what was the problem with the 499P? When questioned at the preview of the official film of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary, Coletta replied: “We encountered an electronic problem. When you restart the car, it activates a procedure that inspects the electronic system. If the slightest fault is detected, the car won’t restart. We therefore had to find a solution to overcome the issue. Alessandro remained unbelievably cool and simply followed the engineer’s instructions to get the car running again. It turned out that it was a small 12-volt battery that caused the problem. The most important thing was that our engineers quickly established a procedure to restart the car. It shows that our victory was achieved by the whole team. Human endeavour still has its place at Le Mans and that’s what makes this race so special.”
A win that will remain in the team’s heart for ever
Pier Guidi also said a few words about this incident late in the race: “I think it was easier for me inside the car than it was for my team-mates watching! I was just focused on trying to do the procedure. I already did it a few hours before and it worked, so I was just hoping that it would go the same way. When the engine started and I was able to leave the pit lane, it was a relief.”
The Italian racer also admitted that this win on the biggest endurance stage had had an unexpected impact on his life. “I had already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice in LMGTE Pro, but this outright win changed my life. Now, people have started to recognise me when I’m out and about. Hardly a day goes by without my thinking back to our win and to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I have the picture of our win as my wallpaper so I see it every time I open my laptop!” he explained.
Ferrari will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans next June to defend its crown. In an earlier interview, Antonio Giovinazzi declared that the team will keep on working “flat-out”. Ferrari AF Corse is still a young team with room for improvement in several areas. “Our strategy will be working every day on improving,” he said.
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