UPDATE: image removed at owner's request. Click the Read link to see the pics at The Car Connection.

While Lamborghini prepares its second Superleggera model, Ferrari is hard at work on its own F430 Challenge Stradale. Spy shots have surfaced of a pair of test mules rallying it up on gravel backroads in preparation for the car's market debut.

The new version picks up where the previous 360 CS left off, turning an already finely-tuned instrument of speed into an even sharper one. Whereas Porsche's RS formula calls for reducing unnecessary weight while leaving the engine in tact, Ferrari's prescription is more closely mimicked by its rivals in Sant'Agata by reducing weight while adding power to further optimize the all-important power-to-weight ratio.

Sources indicate that the formula has changed a bit from the 360 to 430 CS versions: safety standards now mean no plastic windows, and the center-bolted racing wheels are reported to have given way to a more conventional five-bolt set-up. Weight is reduced through the use of carbon fiber in the doors and rear grille, lightweight magnesium rims, and what is sure to be a stripped interior with racing buckets, amounting to an estimated 220-lb weight savings. Power is expected to top 520 hp, and the brakes are tipped to get an upgrade over the "standard" F430, while soft-compound Pirelli PZero rubber should help the car stick better than the Bridgestones its conventional counterpart is saddled with.

After a season spent trimming down and toning up, the F430 Challenge Stradale looks ripe to take on its challengers with explosive speed.

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[Source: The Car Connection]