Ferrari owners enjoy closer interaction with the factory than any other manufacturer. And Maranello likes to listen to their fans, and they noticed a trend among enthusiasts in the early 90’s. Instead lieu of a traditional car show, many owners were suiting up and hitting the track. But that’s how it all starts. You come home with a 2nd place finish and your mind gets the better of you. Your beloved Ferrari could have been faster if you just remove weight, so the carpet is rolled up and placed in the attic. You could compete in the pro-am class if you had a roll cage. Say goodbye to your radio and dash. The transformation from street car to race car is often irreversible, because the performance gains are addictive.
The big auto companies love to see their owners go racing, because it creates repeat business. But Ferrari saw it as an opportunity to build race-prepped cars at the factory. Manufacturers don’t make money on race cars, which is why the Challenge Series is so unique. Beginning with the 348 Berlinetta and continuing with the upcoming 488 GTB, Challenge Cars are among the best stress relievers on the market.
Early cars like the 348 and 355 were built with provisions to be raced, with the dealer performing final installation of the hardware. With the launch of the 360 Modena Challenge, the cars left the factory ready to race. Our Federal Government doesn’t like us to enjoy driving, so technically the 360 Challenge Stradale was the last street legal example. With more recent versions like the F430 and 458 Challenge, the owner receives a Bill of Sale along with a potent race car. We don’t advocate circumventing the DOT, but loopholes have been found to register them if you are willing to do some homework.
360 Challenge Stradale
The most sensible choice is the only Challenge Car to offer A/C and an audio system. Door panels and most of the interior are carbon fiber, and the engine boasts a higher compression ration than the 360 Modena. Only 200 cars were produced, mainly due to the exotic materials involved. Carbon ceramic brakes were still new technology, and instead of steel springs at each corner Ferrari used titanium. Being 3 seconds faster around the Fiorano race track, it left the Modena in the dust.
Next in the series was the F430 Challenge. Using the same production engine as the F430 production model, every other component was aimed at dominating the competition. As a purpose-built race car, stability control was eliminated and the electronic differential was swapped for a mechanical unit. The F1 single clutch automatic was revised with closer ratios, and the differential ratio was shortened. Using Lexan instead of glass, F430 Challenge is over 650 lbs lighter than the production car.
As the state of the art in the Ferrari Challenge, the 458 Challenge Evo makes 570 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Lower and wider than the production car, the front splitter is not kind to street driving. The approach ramp to our building was poured with supercars in mind, but the aggressive aerodynamics of the race car required improvisation to reach the showroom. Unlike its predecessor, it combines the stability and traction control systems into the manettino on the steering wheel.
We know a 488 Challenge has just been unveiled, but they have yet to hit the market.
With limited production of these models, there will always be a demand for factory-built race cars. Modifying your street car is a surefire way to destroy its resale value, so consider a Challenge for your next track car. As always, we don’t advocate driving race cars on the street, but its only illegal if they can catch you.