FERRARI 250 LM
Flipping through the pages of the Le Mans 24 Hours golden book, one might think that victory in 1965 was a matter as simple as that for Scuderia Ferrari. Maranello had won Le Mans five times in a row, and winning with a specially developed car like the 250 LM (or 275 LM because of the engine change in 1964) seemed like a kind of 'obvious destiny'.
In reality, the 1963 derivative of the 250 P prototype needed one season to return to top condition: 1964 ended with a few victories and podium finishes in minor events, but in the Sarthe, the car only managed an anonymous sixteenth place, and this car was entrusted to the Belgian National Team and fitted with the type 275 P 3.3-litre engine that was to become standard.
1. In 1965, all 250 LMs were fitted with the '275' 3.3-litre V12 engine instead of the original 250 inherited from the 250 GTO. Power ranged from around 320 to 350 bhp.
2. Chassis no. 5893 saw its first official competition. It competed in two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1968 and 1969) and three editions of the 24 Hours of Daytona, finishing seventh at best.
3. Although registered with the NART team, the 250 LM that won in 1965 was painted Ferrari red, instead of the American team's white and blue livery.
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1965 was a different story. The 250 LM was one of the leading cars. At the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours, five of them were registered bearing the colours of the same number of teams. These did not include the official SEFAC Ferrari team, which entered two models of the 330 P2 Spyder and a 275 P2, all of which were forced to withdrew during the race.
The Cavallino Rampante's supremacy at Le Mans was defended by Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team (NART), a quasi-official spin-off from Maranello in the United States. Their 250 LM, driven by Austrian Jochen Rindt and Americans Masten Gregory and Ed Hugus (who only completed a few laps), won the event ahead of two other Cavallino-branded cars and two Porsche 904s. Their triumph was made easier by the disappointing performance of the Ford GT40s and Cobra Daytonas which, after taking the lead, ended up withdrawing one after the other for technical reasons.
Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren and the Shelby team got their revenge the following year, but the 1965 edition was dominated by the more reliable Italian berlinettes.
1. Initially, the 250 LM was intended for GT homologation. But the number produced, just over 30 examples, was not sufficient for the FIA, who required a minimum of 100. The car was therefore classified as a prototype.
2. The 5-speed gearbox was mounted at the rear, alongside the engine, after the differential and the wheel axle, an architecture that was retained for years on many Ferrari "all-rear" cars.
3. The 250 LM was not intended as a spider, but only as a coupé or "berlinette" as it was officially described.
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Following Rindt and Gregory were the 250 LM of Pierre Dumay's private team, driven by Gustave Gosselin, and the 275 GTB of the Francorchamps team, which won the GT category with Willy Mairesse and Jean 'Beurlys' Blaton. Both teams were longstanding Ferrari customers. For the 250 LM, Le Mans marked the most important success of its career, just as it did for the American Masten Gregory, whose victory in the Sarthe sealed a triptych of successes at the wheel of sports-prototype cars, a sequence which began with victories in the 1,000 km of the Nürburgring in 1961 and the Canadian Grand Prix (Mosport Park) in 1962.
Victory at Le Mans in 1965 marked the beginning of Jochen Rindt's career, having just turned 23. Five years later, he became Formula 1 world champion, a title that was awarded posthumously: with only three races left in the season, and with a lead in the classification that was impossible for his rivals to recover, he suffered a terrible accident during the trials for the Monza Grand Prix.
A. The bodywork of the 250 LM was similar to that of the 250 P, the model from which it was derived and with which it shared a flat rear bonnet. The difference between the two is that the passenger compartment is covered by a roof, whereas the 250 P is a spider. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés.
B. The V12 did not require large hot air extractors, just two grilles in the rear panel, not present on the version presented in 1963. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés.
250 LM OR 275 LM ?
Faithful to tradition, Scuderia Ferrari named the new 'LM' in 1963 with a number indicating the engine's unit capacity, i.e. 250 cm3, as it had done for the other models equipped with the famous 3-litre V12. However, occasionally articles from the period referred to the 1965 Le Mans winner as a '275 LM', referring to the 1964 engine change. That year, the model replaced its original 3-litre, 250cc V12 engine with one that produced 3.3 litres and almost 275cc per cylinder. However, the company in Maranello never changed the model's official name and continued to call it the 250 LM.