The number 21 Ferrari 250 LM had all odds against it at the 1965 Le Mans race. The first of the many was with FIA regulations. The Ferrari 250 LM wanted to compete in the Group 3 GT class of Le Mans, but the FIA wasn’t convinced with Enzo Ferrari being able to sell at least 100 examples of 250 LM to customers. As a result it had to compete above its weight class in the Le Mans Prototype category. In what can be best described as a splendid display of grit and sheer perseverance, the Ferrari 250 LM won the 1965 season of Le Mans against the likes of proper LMP1 cars. It’s one thing to punch above your weight class, but to bring home the victory doing it is something extraordinary. This would also be Ferrari’s last victory at the legendary Le Mans.
The first rate iteration of the Ferrari 250 LM started with the Ferrari 250 S. The 250 S experimental was first entered in the 952 Mille Miglia and would later enter the Le Mans and Carrera Panamerica. The chassis was made of a tubular frame, this gave good chassis rigidity, which translated to good handling that made it stand out among its competitors. The 250 S sported a 3.0-litre carbureted V12 engine putting out 227hp.
The 1952 Paris Motor Show saw the introduction of Ferrari 250 MM, built on the success of the 250 S. The 250 MM used a shorter tail a redesigned front end favouring better aerodynamics (considering how the 250 S was marginally slower compared to the competition of straights). The 250 MM, of which the MM stood for Mille Miglia, a tribute to the success of the 250S. The 250 MM had a considerable amount of development under the hood, with the dry sump of the 250 S replaced to a wet sump to aid better lubrication and heat transfer in racing applications. The V12 engine was reduced by one gear and the power output raised to 240hp.
Also Read: Story of the Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina
The success achieved in GT racing with the 250 S and the 250 MM, had Enzo Ferrari eyeing the Endurance battleground. The Ferrari 250 GTO ( Gran Turismo Omologato) was produced between 1962 and 1964 to fit FIA’s homologation requirements for the Group 3 Grand Touring Car category. The 250 GTO was sold sparingly to customers approved by Enzo Ferrari. There were 2 iterations of the 250 GTO in the form of Series I and Series II and sold a total of 39 cars among them.
The year 1964 saw the most radical transformation to the 250 line of cars. The Ferrari 250 LM moved the front engine layout to mid engine layout, which was what the Le Mans Prototype race cars were running. This radical transformation of the car put its GT tag at stake. The homologation issues with the FIA and being rigged with reliability problems saw the 250 LM not even make the start line of the 24 hrs of Le Mans in 1964. The team came back stronger in 1965 with a more reliable and capable machine only exceeded by their brilliant drivers.
After qualifying 11th in the Prototype category, the team had to ensure they kept out of trouble and drove cautiously. The plan worked perfectly and the 250 LM was brilliantly reliable, but pushing the car to its limit over 24hrs does take its toll. The Ferrari 250 LM was struck with an electrical failure which ate 20 mins into the time. What followed was a perfect race by the 250 LM and its drives which made it clench the top honours at the 1965 Le Mans in the Prototype division. The 250 LM ran the same V12 engine from the 250 GTO but the engine was bored out to 3.3-litre displacement. The 250 LM was also Ferrari’s first mid-engined sportscar. The success of the 250 LM saw Ferrari stick to the mid-engined layout for all their flagship sportscars thereon.
Photography by Antoine Dellenbach at Spa Classic 2017