Isotta Fraschini, the aristocratic Italian marque that had its heyday in the 1920s, is making a comeback at high speed. Anyone reading the entry list for the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans will find a prototype called the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 6 LMH-C. What's all this about a name from the past resurfacing in a race where technology calls the shots?

The original Isotta Fraschini was founded in Milan in 1900 by Cesare Isotta and the brothers Antonio, Oreste and Vincenzo Fraschini. It was initially a car agency and workshop, but soon began producing its own sports and racing cars.

It also made lorries and aviation engines, but made a real name for itself as a manufacturer of ultra-luxury cars, especially the Tipo 8. In the USA, it was the car of silent film superstar Rodolfo Valentino. In Brazil, it was the favourite brand of operatic singer Gabriella Besanzoni and industrialist Henrique Lage: the millionaire couple lived in the mansion that is now Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, and had no less than four Isotta Tipo 8s.

The Italian company survived the Second World War, but didn't last long after that. In 1949, when it made an agreement with the Fábrica Nacional de Motores to produce lorries in Brazil, Isotta Fraschini was already bankrupt. After a few units were assembled, FNM had to turn to Alfa Romeo to keep production going, but that's another story.

Comeback attempts

Since the demise of the original Isotta Fraschini, there have been a few attempts to revive the brand. In the 1990s, the name was used on a coupé and a convertible with Audi V8 and W12 engines, but only a few prototypes were made.

In 2018, it was the turn of entrepreneurs from Milan to form a new Isotta Fraschini Milano Fabbrica Automobili, with the initial idea of producing an ultra-luxury electric saloon. After a change of ownership, however, they decided that the brand's debut would be with a hypercar to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

The project was handled by Michelotto Automobili, which has a fine track and rally record dating back to the 1970s and has already collaborated in adapting several street Ferrari for use in competitions. Its aerodynamics were developed by Williams Grand Prix Engineering (which is now in Formula 1 through the Williams Racing team).

Competizione

At the start of 2023, the new Isotta Fraschini presented the Tipo 6 LMH Competizione at the Automobile Club of Milan. This is a hybrid hypercar with all-wheel drive: the front axle carries a 272 PS electric motor powered by a 900V lithium-ion battery. Behind the driver is a 3-litre V6 petrol engine with a single turbo - according to WEC regulations, its power is limited to 707 PS. With a carbon fibre monocoque, the car weighs just 1,030 kilos (the same as a Fiat Argo 1.0), giving a power-to-weight ratio of 1.05 kg/PS.

The V6 engine was developed in Germany by HWA Engineering, which stands for Hans-Werner Aufrecht. This veteran coachbuilder is not only the president of the company, but is also the letter "A" in the AMG acronym (the company founded by Aufrecht in 1967 and sold to Mercedes-Benz in 1999). The electric motor is also supplied by HWA.

The seven-speed sequential gearbox and differential are supplied by Xtra, the manufacturer of all the transmission sets used in NASCAR, among other categories. The suspension is double wishbone and the brake discs are obviously made of carbon fibre, with six-piston callipers at the front and four at the rear. The idea is to sell the prototype to endurance teams and anyone with enough money to race an Isotta Fraschini.

The car made its debut in the World Endurance Championship in March 2024, with the trio of drivers made up of Jean-Karl Vernay (36-year-old Frenchman) and the young Carl Bennett (19-year-old Thai) and Antonio Serravalle (22-year-old Canadian). In the Qatar 1812 Km race, Isotta had to abandon the race due to front suspension problems, finishing 17th out of the 19 competitors in the Hypercar category. In April, at the 6 Hours of Imola, they made it to the final flag, but also finished 17th. In May, it came 15th in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. After Le Mans, in which it placed a very respectable 14th, the Type 6 should come to Interlagos for the 6 Hours of São Paulo on 14 July.

Track

For those who are still not satisfied with the Tipo 6 Competizione, there is the Track version, also for use on racetracks but without the FIA's BoP (Balance of Performance) limitations, which tries to maintain some parity between the different cars competing in the WEC by adjusting limits and parameters such as power, weight, engine management and aerodynamics.

As a result, the power-to-weight ratio is 0.98 kg/PS and the car can go from 0 to 124 mph in 4.5 seconds. Want to be the track day king? The Tipo 6 Pista is your car. Production will be limited to 25 units.

Strada

Isotta Fraschini has also shown the Tipo 6 Strada which, as the name suggests, is homologated for use on motorways. At the launch, the hypercar drove from Milan to Sanremo through narrow city streets, heavy traffic and 260 kilometres (162 miles) of road.

It's basically the Competizione version, but with a few changes to get it approved for use on public roads. The ground clearance has been increased and there are fewer aerodynamic appendages - the most noticeable is the absence of the huge rear wing. The tank is slightly larger (100 litres compared to 90 litres on the Competizione version) and the wheels are 19-inch at the front and 20-inch at the rear (on the Competizione and Pista, all four are 18-inch). The lighting, all LED, is designed for street use and, of course, there's room to install number plates.

Otherwise, the car is capable of accelerating from 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds or from 0 to 124 mph in 6 seconds, with a top speed of around 230 mph. The interior is typical of a racing prototype: just one seat (with little comfort), a racing steering wheel with countless buttons for adjustments and controls, no electronic gadgets or multimedia centre. One of the few "luxuries" is a rear-view camera, as there is no rear window. It's worth noting that the Tipo 6 measures 5 metres long by 2 metres wide. It can't be very easy to drive in Italian traffic.

The total production of this street version will be 12 cars, each costing €3.2 million (or £2.7 million at the current exchange rate). That's the price of using a Le Mans 24 Hours hypercar on the streets and it will be the centre of attention wherever it goes.