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First look: Ferrari takes 458 racing

Race ready: Ferrari's 458 Challenge has gone lean and mean, with lighter panels and wider use of composites.

Race version of Ferrari’s new 458 super-coupe emerges ahead of 2011 track campaign

19 Jul 2010

FERRARI has wasted no time in developing an even more hard-core version of its all-new 458 Italia super-coupe, first Australian deliveries of which take place next month.

The lighter-weight, race-ready 458 Challenge made its world debut at Ferrari’s annual dealer meeting at Maranello last week, and could provide a preview of what to expect from the stripped-out 458 Scuderia road car due to emerge in 2013.

The latter will complete Ferrari’s rollout of the 458 model family, which opens with the $526,950 coupe and will be joined in the second half of next year by the 458 Spider convertible.

For now, however, the track-focussed 458 Challenge – the racing version of Ferrari’s all-new entry-level coupe – will be available to well-heeled racers wishing to compete in the Prancing Horse brand’s one-make Challenge championship next year, when it will be expanded to include an Asia Pacific series.

Ferrari’s newest berlinetta will join the model it will eventually replace, the F430 Challenge, in the 2011 Challenge Trofeo Pirelli series. It will be the fifth Ferrari model to contest the Challenge series, which debuted in 1993 with Ferrari 348s.

34 center imageLeft: Ferrari 458 Italia

No upgrades were made to the 458 Italia’s 419kW 4.5-litre V8, but revised gear ratios in its modified dual-clutch automated manual gearbox are claimed to generate more torque lower in the rev range.

Ferrari also says it has improved the 458’s power-to-weight ratio by using thinner bodywork panels in tandem with lighter materials such as carbon-fibre and special ‘Lexan’ plastic.

Of course, the circuit-only 458 also scores a revised suspension system comprising stiffer springs, single-rate dampers and a 30mm-lower ride height, while race-compound tread-less Pirelli slicks are wrapped around 19-inch racing wheels with single centre locknuts to facilitate quick tyre changes.

Naturally, high-performance Brembo CCM2 brakes are also fitted – in this case from Ferrari’s 599XX development track car – while the standard 458’s driver aids (including the F1-Trac variable traction control system and E-Diff electronic differential) – are fitted to Ferrari’s Challenge racecar for the first time.

No official 0-100km/h acceleration time is quoted for the 458 Challenge (the standard 458 completes the dash in 3.4 seconds), but Ferrari says the 458 racer is not only two seconds faster than the F430 Challenge at its Fiorano test track, but a staggering 8.5 seconds quicker around Fiorano than the standard 458 – with a lap time of 1:16.5.

What’s more, Italy’s latest factory racecar can generate 1.6g of lateral grip in corners.

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