Rivals – Porsche vs. Ferrari

July 30, 2012

Rivals – Porsche vs. Ferrari

July 30, 2012


It is only natural that two of the greatest names in sports car competition today are fierce rivals. Porsche and Ferrari both have strong national cultures, passionate followings and stunning records of success in international competition.

Each also reflects its native culture in music, art, language, foods and beautiful race cars.

When an executive at one of the world’s most successful Ferrari teams, Houston-based Risi Competizione says “We are an Italian racing team,” the meaning is clear and the passion and emotion are obvious.

Porsche takes a different approach. Porsche customers and fans are drawn to the engineering expertise that the company commits to its street cars. Porsche Motorsports is a department within the company’s Research and Development division.

Porsche is committed to sports car racing as a research and development tool to improve its street cars and to be in the forefront in implementing new technology. It also uses racing to help recruit and train young engineers who work both on motorsports and street car programs.

Each has enjoyed extended periods of great success and today the rivalry plays out at major events around the world, including here in the American Le Mans Series.

It was not always that way. Before 1960, Ferrari usually ran for overall race wins in major international events while Porsche’s smaller displacement race cars ran for class wins.

That changed in 1960 when Porsche took the overall win at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the first of a record 18 overall victories. Porsche also owns the overall victory record at Le Mans with 16 wins.

Porsche cars were often just half the cost of Ferrari’s least expensive car, but the battle for supremacy at the track was on and some of the most famous cars in racing history were to follow.

Today, each manufacturer sells a special version of its latest cars for sports car competition.

ALMS fans have especially enjoyed the competition in recent years as the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Ferrari 430GT and now 458 Italia have battled each other and Corvette, BMW and other top makes.

Porsche now has more than 100 class wins in ALMS events, including 12 overall race wins with the Porsche Penske RS Spyders.

From 1999 to 2006, Porsche racked up 21 wins in the major races: Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.

Ferrari has enjoyed considerable success in recent years, taking nine major wins since 2007, including the GTE –Pro class honors at Le Mans this June.

Sidelined this season, Risi Competizione Ferrari has scored 20 of Ferrari’s 28 wins in ALMS competition in addition to three victories at Le Mans.

Each assigns factory drivers to top customer teams. Porsche places Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Marco Holzer with Flying Lizard and Wolf Henzler at Falken.

Ferrari assigns its top shoes, like Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni, to AF Corse in the FIA World Endurance championship.

Porsche takes a three-pronged approach in ALMS, led by stalwart Flying Lizard Motorsports and joined by the Falken and Paul Miller Racing entries.

Ferrari counters in ALMS with Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) Ferraris.

Each has taken a recent win in 2012 ALMS competition, with the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche winning Lime Rock and ESM Ferrari at Mosport.

Just hours before the team secured its first ALMS victory at Mosport, team owner Scott Sharp said:

“I think it is hugely prestigious for us to be running Ferraris, especially when you think of their lineage and history. Hopefully, ESM makes a tiny contribution to that overall record.”

Why did his team choose Ferrari? “Ferrari matched up so well with the premium brand of Tequila Patrón and that was one of the initial reasons we looked at Ferrari. Ferrari was very interested in trying, at the time, to get a second team. Now we find ourselves as the only Ferrari team in the American Le Mans Series,” said Sharp.

How does he see the battle? “It is a challenge to be the only Ferraris here and certainly we’re up against full-fledged factory-backed efforts. We certainly have support from Ferrari, but I don’t think it is quite the same as what some of the other teams, the levels of support they have or all their resources behind them. We realize the slope of our hill is high but we work extremely hard. On top of all of that, thank goodness we’re on the best tires that are out there; otherwise it wouldn’t be worth showing up.”

What does the future hold? New rules, new technologies and new cars, including Porsche’s return to Prototypes at Le Mans in 2014 will come, but fans hope the rivalry will continue for many, many years to come.

So, can a Porsche fan also be a Ferrari fan?

A Porsche loyalist says, “It is like the Red Sox and the Yankees — a baseball fan can appreciate the way both teams play. You can appreciate both as a sports car racing fan, but a real fan of either team would not wear the other team’s shirt.”

That spirit is a sign of a great rivalry.

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