Ferrari returning to Le Mans top flight with hypercar in 2023

FILE PHOTO: Chairman and CEO of Exor and Chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles John Elkann speaks during investor day held by the holding group of Italy's Agnelli family in Turin, Italy November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

(Reuters) - Ferrari will return to the top flight of endurance racing with a hypercar entry in 2023, competing for outright Le Mans 24 Hours victory for the first time in 50 years, the Italian marque said on Wednesday.

Ferrari last entered the top category at Le Mans in 1973 and rivals will include Toyota, Peugeot, Porsche and Audi among major manufacturers.

The Hypercar category replaces the previous LMP1 in endurance racing.

Ferrari has won Le Mans outright nine times but not since 1965, when it fought a famed battle with Ford at the Sarthe circuit in western France. The marque has tasted success more recently in GT racing, winning the 2019 GTE Pro category.

"With the new Le Mans Hypercar programme, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events," said Ferrari president John Elkann in a statement.

The name of the Ferrari car and the drivers have yet to be announced.

Ferrari have been looking for other activities in which to redeploy staff as a Formula One budget cap takes effect and the sport's oldest and most successful team are forced to slim down.

Some technical staff have already moved across to work with the Haas F1 team, who use Ferrari engines and have a close partnership with Maranello.

Ferrari also have a thriving young driver academy with endurance racing another arena for them to gain experience.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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