Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Click above for high-res image gallery
There's no shortage of race tracks in Italy and around the world that are commonly associated with Ferrari. The factory has its own Fiorano circuit on premises, and the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola – former host of the San Marino Grand Prix – is just fifty miles away. But the spiritual home of the Tifosi, Ferrari's legions of fans, is at Monza. A fitting location, then, to launch the latest Ferrari sports racers.
This past weekend, Monza hosted a number of production-based races including the first rounds of both the European and Italian leagues of the Ferrari Challenge series. After launching the new 458 Challenge spec racer at the Bologna Motor Show several months ago, this was the first time the car was actually being raced. And what would you know, it actually won its first outing! (Okay, it is a spec racing series, but the new 458 Italia racers did beat out the older F430 models that are still being used by some teams.)
The Challenge, however, wasn't the only version of the 458 that made its debut this past weekend at Monza. So did the 458 Italia GT3, which slots in between the GT2-spec 458 GTC and the aforementioned Challenge racer. The GT3 car was prepared by Michelotto Automobili – the same factory-endorsed racing garage responsible for countless racing Ferraris as well as the development of the 288 GTO and F40 – and campaigned by AF Corse in two races of the GT Sprint International Series that supports the Superstars touring car series, where it finished second and third overall on its race debuts – second only to the F430 GTC it replaces.
Want to see what it's like to lap Monza in a 458 racer? To coincide with the launch of the new machinery, Ferrari has released on-board video footage of the 458 Challenge with Stefano Gai, the defending champion who dominated this weekend's national series race from start to finish. Follow the jump to watch and check out the pair of press releases.
The wraps come off the 458 Italia GT3
Monza, 10 April – On the same card at the Monza National circuit as the opening round of this season's Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli, featuring the new 458 Challenge car, there was another significant track debut, that of the Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
The car is prepared by Ferrari in collaboration with Michelotto Automobili and was on track for the first round of the GT Sprint International Series, which runs to a two race format, each of 25 minutes and runs as part of the Superstars event.
Over the weekend, Fabio Mancini and Niki Cadei took turns at the wheel of the new Ferrari which was running in the colours of the AF Corse team and which confirmed in today's race, the very high potential the car had to offer.
It came second overall in Race 1 and third in the GTS3 with Niki Cadei's excellent driving delivering the race fastest lap in 1.49.910 on lap 9. The outright win went to the F430 GTC of Massimiliano Mugelli (Vittoria Competizioni) with third place going to another F430 GTC driven by AF Corse's Giuseppe Ciro.
In the second race, the AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 took another good result finishing third overall in the hands of Fabio Mancini,behind the Vittoria Competizioni F430 GTC driven by Andrea Palma and the Ferrari of Michael Dalle Stelle (Racing Team Edil Cris) first and second overall respectively. Mancini, the leader in class GTS3 took a well deserved third place ahead of the Roberto Del Castello Corvette Z06 R.
The next round of the GT Sprint International Series takes place at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit at Cheste, over the weekend of 8 May, which also hosts the second round of the European Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli.
Full marks for the launch of the 458 Challenge in Monza
Monza, 10 April –The opening round of this season's Italian and European Challenge Trofeo Pirelli took place this weekend at the Monza National Circuit, with the debut of the new 458 Challenge. The car's maiden outing was watched by special guests in the shape of Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa and Enrico Galleria, Ferrari Commercial and Marketing Director, who were in Monza for this special debut. A good crowd, which on Sunday alone reached 24,000
Victory in the second and closely contested leg of the European division was decided pretty much at the start with the advantage going to Alexandr Skryabin (Ferrari Moscow) who, of the drivers in the Trofeo Pirelli category remained solidly in command for the entire race, despite the arrival of the safety car after Howard Blank's (Motor Piacenza) accident. The Ferrari Moscow man crossed the line ahead of Max Blancardi (Motor Malucelli) and Alexey Vasiliev (Ferrari Moscow) with both men driving great races featuring amazing climbs up the order. Equally closely fought was the race to the podium for the gentleman drivers in the Coppa Shell: Jean Marc Bachelier (Motor Piacenza) took the win ahead of Dirk Adamski (Baron Service) and Dennis Andersen (Formula Automobie), while of those in the F430 Challenge, Alexadner Moiseev (Motor Piacenza) was first, beating Carsten Andersen (Formula Automobile.)
In the Italian Trofeo Pirelli, the top step of the podium was occupied once again by Stefano Gai: the Rossocorsa driver led all 35 minutes of the race, to finish ahead of Giorgio Sernagiotto (Motor Piacenza) who drove a consistent and error free race. Lorenzo Bontempelli (Kessel Racing) having started alongside Gai, had to pit early and then climbed up the order to stand on the third step of the podium. In the Coppa Shell race, Benedetto Marti (Motor Piacenza) took a fantastic win, getting the better of Mario Molteni (Rossocorsa) and Emilio Rossi (Motor Piacenza.) In the second leg of the F430 Challenge, Giosuè Rizzuto (Motor/Modena) was impressive on his way to the win over Sossio del Prete (CDP) and Andrea D'Antonio (Ineco/Ram.)
Competitors in the European Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli will be back in action at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, Cheste near Valencia over the weekend of 8 May, while they and the Italian competitors will both race in the brand new round at the Le Mans circuit on 11 June, in one race with separate classifications, as a curtain raiser to the famous Le Mans 24 Hours.