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Bologna show: Ferrari unveils latest Challenge racer

Worth the weight: As well as stripping the cabin of all non-essential components, Ferrari reduced the thickness of all the body panels and replaced all window glass with Lexan polycarbonate.

Stunning new Ferrari 458 Challenge track car breaks free at Bologna motor show

6 Dec 2010

FERRARI may have fallen short of snatching the World F1 Championship from Red Bull, but the Italian supercar company nevertheless opted for a competition theme to its stand at this week’s Bologna Motor Show, including the world debut of the new 458 Challenge road-racer.

The mid-engined track car is derived from the 458 Italia supercar and will be produced in limited numbers, with a considerable premium over the road version’s $526,950 pricetag.

It is the fifth model built by Ferrari since 1993 for its one-make Challenge Cup race series held in Europe, North America, Italy and (starting next year with rounds in Japan and China) Asia-Pacific.

34 center imageFerrari said the new 458 Challenge “puts an exceptional combination of extreme performance, superb fun behind the wheel and unique driving emotions at the fingertips of its sporting, professional and gentleman-driver clients” through the company’s Corse Clienti Department at Maranello.

What primarily sets the Challenge apart from the regular Italia is the reduction of weight, which no doubt improves the 0-100km/h acceleration time of just 3.4 seconds, although no official figures were revealed in Bologna.

As well as stripping the cabin of all non-essential components, the Scuderia reduced the thickness of all the body panels, increased the number of carbon-fibre panels and fabricated all windows from Lexan polycarbonate material instead of glass (making them lighter and also shatterproof).

Another first for a Ferrari Challenge model – which were previously stripped of the advanced traction control and launch systems found in their street-legal counterparts – is the adoption of the company’s F1-Trac traction control system.

Claimed by Ferrari to be the most sophisticated of its kind and now actually banned from F1 racing, the F1-Trac system is integrated with the E-Diff and constantly monitors levels of grip “to guarantee maximum stability and acceleration both into and out of corners”.

Three user-selectable settings can be triggered from the ‘manettino’ dial on the steering wheel levels one and two offer varying levels of assistance calibrated specifically for track use, but those with considerable race experience (or sheer bravado) can turn the system off completely.

Despite having no more power than the road car, Ferrari said that, in the course of the intensive development sessions honing the 458 Challenge for the track, the engineers managed to improve the car’s lap time at the company’s private Fiorano test track by some 8.5 seconds.

Its fastest lap was 1m16.5s, two seconds faster than the superseded F430-based Challenge model, but equally impressive is the amount of lateral grip the new car generates on the skidpad – up to an organ-crushing 1.6g.

The 458 Challenge retains the road car’s 4.5-litre V8 engine, which produces 419kW of power at 9000rpm and 540Nm of torque, but modifications have been made to the gear ratios and calibration of the seven-speed dual-clutch F1 gearbox to produce a better torque spread at lower revs.

Ferrari has also retained its F1-developed E-Diff electronic differential from the road-going version, which was its first production car equipped with this development. The new 458 Challenge is therefore the first of Ferrari’s track-cars to get the E-Diff.

The suspension features steel ball-joints, stiffer springs, single-rate alloy dampers, centre-lock 19-inch forged alloy rims, Pirelli slick tyres and a ride height lowered by 50mm all round.

Braking is provided by Brembo CCM2 carbon-ceramic brakes integrated with the latest ABS system – the same set-up used on the 599XX, Ferrari’s extreme experimental laboratory car.

Previous models in the Scuderia’s competition line have been the 348 Challenge (1993-1995), F355 Challenge (1995-2000), 360 Challenge (2000-2006) and F430 Challenge (2006-2011).

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