For what has seemed like forever, Porsche's 911 has dominated the Le Mans-spec GT2 class, with hordes of the iconic rear-engined sports car steamrolling the feeble opposition. The unquestioned dominance of its GT3 RSR racecars has contributed in large part to the mystique that surrounds the Porsche brand, and certainly hasn't hurt sales of its 911 production cars.

But times are changing, and this year could see the end of Porsche's racing dominance, with strong competition from Panoz and Ferrari shaking the confidence of the Porsche contingent in Le Mans competition.

Ferrari's blisteringly fast F430GT, in particular, must be keeping Porsche engineers awake at night. Showing class-leading pace in its debut Le Mans-class race at Sebring in March, the Prancing Horse marked its maiden win this weekend in the first round of the European Le Mans Series in Istanbul.

Ferrari has long based its brand image on its racing heritage, and a return to success in sports car racing would be a huge boost to the Italian marque, especially since its Formula 1 team is struggling. On the other side of the coin, Porsche is at the absolute pinnacle of development for the basic 911, and the company may find it difficult to compete with more modern designs like the F430GT once the bugs are ironed out.

[Sources: Le Mans Series via Italiaspeed]

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