Trailblazer

Track-day specials are a staple of Ferrari’s recent lineup—but that wasn’t always the case.

February 2, 2017
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Enthusiasts around the world are eagerly anticipating the arrival of a lighter, more powerful, track-focused version of the 488 GTB. Not only will such a stripped-out turbocharged road racer be a spiritual successor to the F40, it will thoroughly rival that pesky, albeit very accomplished, machine from the British Isles, the McLaren 675 LT [“Enemy at the Gates,” FORZA #152].

While hard-core track-day specials have become a regular feature of the Ferrari stable, that hasn’t always been the case. It’s arguable the first such car was the F355 Challenge, as some early examples were street legal, but the lineage properly begins with this car: the Challenge Stradale.

In 1999, Ferrari introduced the revolutionary 360 Modena, named after the town in which Enzo Ferrari was born. The sleek 360 was a significant step up from its predecessor, the F355, in performance, aerodynamics, and technology. Modena fans got an even bigger treat in 2003, when Maranello created a new version in the mold of the 360 Challenge race car.

To be clear, the Challenge Stradale wasn’t an homologation special, a production model like the 288 GTO (or Porsche’s 911 GT3 and GT3 RS) built specifically to form the basis of a racing car. Instead, it was designed to bring the feeling of a racing car to the street—or stradale, in Italian.

How did Ferrari do it? Visually, the Challenge Stradale looked focused compared to a regular 360. While the Modena’s aluminum skin remained untouched, new bumpers, bespoke side sills, and 15mm (0.6 inch) lower springs created a new hunkered-down stance. The result was a perfect visual blend of road and race car, down to the standard Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes nestled behind the 19-inch Challenge-style wheels.

As I walk to the rear of the car, my eye is drawn to the Perspex rear window, which is supported by two thin carbon-fiber cross bars. The minimalist engine bay seems desolate compared with the extensively wired, ancillary-packed compartments found in contemporary machinery.

Also from Issue 156

  • 488 Challenge
  • 550 GTS
  • 2017 Finali Mondiali
  • Alaskan tifosi
  • 2017 F1 season finally ends
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: 360 or bust
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