Unsurprisingly, Maranello is serious about challenging the Porsche 911 for shear proliferation in sports car racing. That's why the mid-engined GT has already spawned Challenge, GT2 and GT3 racing versions, and has now bred one more for the Grand Am series. Developed by Ferrari's go-to racing garage, Michelotto, this latest competition 458 has just undergone its initial shakedown at the company's on-site Fiorano test track at the hands of Jamie Melo (who's driven the previous F430 GT2 to two consecutive class wins at Le Mans and class titles in the American Le Mans Series and FIA GT Championship) and Maurizio Mediani (who just happened to have been our instructor at the Alfa Romeo driving school at Varano).
In compliance with the American series' regulations, the engine has actually been detuned from 562 horsepower in stock street-going trim to 500 for track duty, thanks in part to a 48-millimeter restrictor plate and an 8,000 rpm rev limiter. The aerodynamics are also reworked compared to other racing versions, the spec Continental tires are of a particularly hard compound, and the suspension has been beefed up to deal with the higher collision rate in American racing.
In other words, the 458 Grand Am may be the slowest racecar in the lineup. Of course, that's not an issue (it won't be going up against its own stablemates, after all), the question is whether it will prove faster than the other cars on the Grand Am grid. Follow the jump for the press release and scope out the images in our gallery for more.
Maranello, 18 July – the 458 Italia Grand Am was given its track baptism today at the Fiorano circuit. The car has been developed in conjunction with Michelotto Automobili, based on the GT3 version of the V8 Ferrari berlinetta, with the aim of racing in the famous North American series.
The 458 Grand Am is built to match the American regulations and is therefore different to the European car, especially in that it develops 500 horsepower and has less efficient aerodynamics than the GT version. It is also fitted with a 48 mm restrictor and maximum revs are 8000. Significant modifications have been made to the braking system, as the car has neither ABS nor traction control. Other differences to the GT3 include the roll-over bar which gives greater lateral protection to increase safety in a series in which collisions are rather more frequent. The car is fitted with tyres from Continental, the sole supplier to the series, featuring a very hard compound, again to conform with the series regulations. On its shakedown today, it completed a good number of trouble-free laps, 45 to be precise in the hands of Maurizio Mediani and Jaime Melo, as they took turns at the wheel.