Everyone loves a special-edition, track-focused Ferrari and the time has come for the 458 to get a taste of the Maranello magic. At this week's 2010 Bologna Motor Show, Ferrari has devoted its stand to serve as storyboard showcasing the automaker's racing heritage. The newest piece of that history takes the form of the Ferrari 458 Challenge, which is finally making its world debut.
The 458 Challenge is the fifth model to get placed into a single-series racing program. The standard 458 Italia is already such a potent beast that the Challenge keeps the changes away from the engine bay leaving it with the same 570 horsepower as the standard 458 Italia. That said, the gear ratios and calibration of the dual-clutch transmission have been adjusted so that the Challenge generates more torque at lower revs.
Stiffer springs and a lower ride height help keep the body planted around the large Pirelli tires. That rubber hugs 19-inch forged alloys with a central locking nut. The brakes are upgraded to the newest setup that Brembo offers, and the system is paired with the ABS that debuted on the wild-child Ferrari 599XX.
Both the suspension and braking get a helping hand from something that has been reduced: weight. Ferrari has focused on reducing the thickness of the body panels, as well as introducing materials such as carbon fiber and Lexan.
All of the upgrades found on the Ferrari 458 Challenge result in a potent, track-ready machine that is faster than the 458 Italia it's based on. The 458 Challenge hit Ferrari's home Fiorano race track for numerous test sessions, and during the course of development, it was able to post lap times two seconds faster than the Italia. During testing, the 458 Challenge also pulled lateral grip numbers in the neighborhood of 1.6 g's. Giggity.
Maranello, 2nd December – Ferrari makes a different contribution to the 35th edition of the Bologna Motor Show with a stand devoted entirely to its racing activities plus an intense track programme.
The 458 Challenge also makes its world debut at the Bolognese event. This mid-rear V8 berlinetta is derived from the 458 Italia and is the fifth model used by Ferrari in its single-series racing programme. The latter is currently split into Italian, European and North American championships which will be flanked next year by the new Asia-Pacific series. With the new 458 Challenge, Ferrari puts an exceptional combination of extreme performance, superb fun behind the wheel and unique driving emotions at the finger-tips of its sporting, professional and gentleman-driver clients.
Also on the stand is the F430 GTC owned by the AF Corse team, one of the cars with which the Maranello marque won the Constructors' title in the GT2 class of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup 2010.
The Prancing Horse's line-up of track models is completed by the FXX and 599XX laboratory cars, each of which has its own eponymous research and development programme involving in-depth collaboration between Ferrari technicians and our client test-drivers. At the very centre of the stand is the F60, the single-seater the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro fielded in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship season.
A rich and varied programme is planned for the competition arena in Area 48 with the classic end-of-year battle between the drivers of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli, now in its 18th season, dominating the action. No less than 16 cars from the Italian and European series will be taking each other on in a three-round competition on Wednesday, December 8th. However, the high point of the programme will be the Formula 1 exhibition with which Luca Badoer will bring his extraordinary 13-year career as the Scuderia Ferrari's official test-driver to an end. He'll put an F60 through its paces and a simulated pit-stop, as a farewell homage to the tifosi and enthusiasts present.
Compared to the 458 Italia, the direct injection 4499 cc V8 remains strictly in production tune, with an output of 570 hp at 9,000 rpm. That said, modifications have been made to the gear ratios and calibration of its dual-clutch F1 gearbox to guarantee higher torque at lower revs. The 458 Challenge is also equipped with the E-Diff electronic differential already employed on the road-going version, a first for Ferrari's track-only cars.
Significant work has also gone into cutting the car's weight. This focused on both the exterior and interior with Ferrari's engineers concentrating in particular on reducing the thickness of the bodyshell panels and on using lightweight materials, such as carbon-fibre and Lexan.
The new 458 Challenge also has a specific suspension set-up with steel uniball joints, stiffer springs, single-rate alloy dampers, centre-nut 19" forged rims, larger dimension Pirelli slicks and a ride height lowered by 50mm all round. It is also equipped with the new generation Brembo CCM2 brakes integrated with the latest ABS system which debuted on the 599XX, Ferrari's extreme experimental laboratory car.
Another first for a Ferrari Challenge model is the adoption of the F1-Trac traction control system, the most sophisticated of its kind. Developed in-house by Ferrari, the F1-Trac system constantly monitors levels of grip for maximum high-performance road-holding. Two specific track-biased calibrations have been developed for this application, with control logics and strategies derived from Ferrari's extensive racing experience in the F1 and GT championships. The F1-Trac is completely integrated with the E-Diff to guarantee maximum stability and acceleration both into and out of corners.
The ABS/EBD, F1-Trac and E-Diff calibration settings are selected via the manettino on the steering wheel, the first time this solution has been adopted on a model developed for the Ferrari Challenge series. The driver has a choice of three configurations: OFF position (traction control deactivated), position 1 and position 2. The latter two settings have progressively higher levels of control system intervention and are selected in accordance with grip conditions on the track.
In the course of the intensive development sessions involved in honing the 458 Challenge for the track, the engineers also managed to improve the car's lap time at Fiorano by two seconds over that of its predecessor, resulting in a new record of just 1'16.5". Equally impressive is the amount of lateral grip the new car generates – up to 1.6G.