On any given Sunday, you can expect to find a Ferrari 458 Italia racecar screeching around one or more circuits around the world.

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.
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The 458 Italian Grand Am launched at Fiorano circuit

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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      David Opanga
      • 4 Years Ago
      sweet but its really 2012 with all the new implementations that have me excited for the future of grand-am although it's nice seeing them join sooner then 2012 hopefully it makes the GT class competitive.
        Anthony Thomas
        • 4 Years Ago
        @David Opanga
        Please, the gerrymandered the whole GT class. Giving favorable upgrades to the Camaros, dissing the Corvette and forcing Mazda out of the series at the end of the 2011 season. Porsche also left the series in 2010 over "Balance Of Performance". As I have said, its IMPOSSBLE to balance unit-body cars vs tube frame cars. The Corvette, the Camaros, the ONE Mustang and the RX8's are all tube frame. The "high end" European cars, the Ferrari and the Porsche are unit-body. To be frank, the GT3 version of those cars would lap faster than the current DP's do around almost any circuit and the GT2 versions are on pace with the DP's, look at comparable lap times between Grand Am DP pole time and GT2(e) Pole time at the same track.
      Anthony Thomas
      • 4 Years Ago
      As I stated on Murphy's Blog and my own blog, Ferrari believes if they build it, they will come and they are largely right. This car is somewhere in-between the GT3 version and the Challenge Car. The Challenge Car doesn't have the downforce, so while it might be the fastest car in a straight line because of no restrictions and no wings, but slower in medium to high speed corners and even slow corners. Next up should be this car, the GT3 has a taller rear wing and more power. The GT2 has more aggressive aero (downforce) and about the same power as the Grand Am car. The word in the paddock is that the F458 is more like a "Real Race Car" not to say the F430 wasn't but its a major step forward in setup for example and has a narrower band on which to set the car up and give it balanced performance. With very little data, the car is already very fast. Wait until they find the sweet spot for this thing. I don't think BMW will dominate the rest of the ALMS season.
      • 4 Years Ago
      They had to detune it, ha. Wonder how much weight it dropped though.
        Anthony Thomas
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sure, carbon door inserts, it has none of the electronics of the GT3 car (TCS and ABS) and no sound deading. Plus I'm sure the glass is lighter and some of the panels are carbon fiber.