Ferrari showcases 458 Challenge race car at Bologna

Ferrari opened the Bologna Motor Show this morning with a stunning display of race cars including the 599XX and FXX (based upon the Enzo), but it was the 458 Challenge that took centre stage.

The 458 Challenge 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 provides an exceptional combination of performance and superb fun behind the wheel and delivering many unique driving emotions for its 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 their racing clients. At the very centre of the stand is the F60, the single-seater that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro fielded in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship season.

A new single-make track champion

Compared to the 458 Italia, the direct injection 4499 cc V8 remains strictly in production tune for the 458 Challenge, with an output of 562 bhp 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.

Ferrari put the road-going 458 Italia on a diet, making extensive use of carbon-fibre and Lexan. It worked. The new 458 Challenge can lap Fiorano 2 seconds faster than its predecessor, the F430 GTC.

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 was the amount of lateral grip the new car generated – up to 1.6G.

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