For years, from the old 166 or 250 GT sport saloons to, somewhat later, with the GTO or F40, Ferraris have remained Spartan in terms of their trim, even though they had luxurious touches, to focuse entirely on performance in which every single gram of excess weight was eliminated. The other distinctive characteristic is the red body colour, an unmistakable sign of a Maranello car. But by the early â€˜90s this way of conceiving cars seemed rather limited. Owning a Ferrari must give all-round pleasure and so any decision to limit comfort, usability and interior space excessively no longer made sense. The same went for colours. This change of thinking led to models like the 456 GT and 550 Maranello (and todayâ€˜s 575M Maranello), or the F355 and, later, 360 Modena eight-cylinder models.
Ten years on, this progressive mutation has now given way to a certain feeling of nostalgia for a Ferrari with no frills, which models like the F50 and Enzo have continued to express even though they were produced in limited runs. With the 360 Challenge Stradale, Ferrari again proposes the very essence of a racing car. Only features that were absolutely essential to the performance and safety were built into the car; the rest were left out. The end result is an extremely lightweight, fast sports saloon, with a true racing-style set-up and impeccable handling: a model offering top-level performance that incorporates experience gained over the many thousands of kilometres covered by drivers in Challenge Championships throughout the world and advanced testing with the 360 GTs that have participated in the FIA World Championship.
There‘s a choice of two Challenge Stradale versions: a more extreme one with racing seats and sliding windows, last used on the F40, and another, fitted with lighter, wrap-around, leather seats and wind-down windows.
The Challenge Stradale builds on aerodynamic concepts employed on the 360 Modena by taking advantage of the racing set-up (stiffer and lower) and adopting specific solutions that have led to a gain of 50% in vertical load compared with the 360 Modena. The results are extremely significant: at 200 km/h the load increase is about 40 kg for a gain corresponding to the effect of a wing with 15 cm chord length and 1.8 m span.
Despite such a significant increase in vertical load, after all the modifications and adjustments to set-up the car has a Cd equal to that of the 360 Modena (Cd = 0.335).
The entire development of the Challenge Stradale was based around F1-type electro-hydraulic transmission that controls the clutch and gearbox by means of blades integral with the steering column - a trademark of Ferrari cars and a solution developed specifically for racing. The increase in precision guaranteed by the new control strategy applied specifically to this car, and also by a faster processing speed, has reduced gear-change time throughout the entire range of use, with a minimum of 150 milliseconds when using the super-performance option. The available gear-change configurations are consistent with the car‘s top-level sporting profile and so only include manual gear-change operated by the driver using F1-type paddles (there is no automatic gearbox option). The reverse gear is engaged by means of a button on the tunnel.
There are two gear-change configurations (Sport and Race): each of these configurations corresponds to an integrated car-control logic as regards damper set-up and traction control (ASR). In ‘RACE‘ mode and with the ASR disengaged there‘s also a ‘launch control‘ strategy as used in Formula 1, a feature specially designed to give drivers a high-performance start in good grip conditions.
The Challenge Stradale has been derived from the 360 Modena and maintains the same basic approach and architecture. However significant changes have been made to the suspension system and set-up. The titanium front and rear springs are stiffer than on the 360 Modena (around +20%), whereas the rear bar has a larger diameter. These interventions have increased resistance to roll and dip and in general terms have made reaction to direction changes more rapid, giving the driver a more direct feel of the car.
Damper settings have been reviewed and defined specifically for this model. The car‘s centre of gravity has been lowered by 15 mm. The tyres are Pirelli P Zero Corsa type - this new Pirelli super-low tyre adopted specifically for the Challenge Stradale measures 225/35 at the front and 285/35 at the rear and is fitted on 19" Challenge-style wheels secured by titanium bolts. The choice of these tyres exclusively for the Challenge Stradale confirms the effectiveness of cooperation between two of motoring‘s historic brands, not only in the case of the Ferrari Challenge-Pirelli Trophy but also in the FIA GT Championship. A long series of tests carried out together with Pirelli has identified a tyre compound and tread design that maximises torque transfer to the road surface and produces very high lateral acceleration (1.3 g) while maintaining superb balance between the two axles. The innovative characteristics of this tyre, which made its world debut at the Geneva Show together with the Challenge Stradale, means grip can be adjusted to suit the thermal conditions under which the tyre must perform.
The braking system on the Challenge Stradale comprises carbon-ceramic (CCM, Carbon Composite Material) discs: the result of highly advanced studies conducted by Ferrari in conjunction with Brembo, the supplier of this system.
Dimensions of the brake discs are as follows: front: 380 mm diameter x 34 mm thickness, and a differentiated-diameter, 6-piston calliper; rear: 350 mm diameter x 34 m thickness; and a differentiated-diameter, 4-piston calliper The carbon-ceramic system installed on the Challenge Stradale, together with the aluminium brake carriers, makes for astounding performance and braking distance. In terms of weight, the reduction achieved for the Challenge Stradale is 16% when compared with conventional brake discs. Overall deceleration rates for the Challenge Stradale are 15% better than for the 360 Modena.
Essentiality - in the most specific meaning of the term - is the dominant characteristic of the Challenge Stradale‘s interior, right from the elimination of unnecessary features like carpeting and mats, to a racing-style interpretation for every single feature. The rev counter located right in the centre of the instruments becomes the driver‘s main point of reference, emphasised by the yellow graphics and red indicator that ensure optimum contrast and legibility. The entire panel is enclosed within a carbon-fibre element that also houses secondary instruments and other telltales. The new steering wheel, with a squashed crown in the upper section fitted with a sight just like on the racing version, has F1 gear-change paddles, the right one having been lengthened to facilitate changing up when pulling out of corners. The car is fitted with carbon fibre-structure racing seats upholstered with a high-grip textile.
Door panels are made entirely of carbon fibre, as is the central tunnel, which has been designed to house all the car‘s main controls - ignition button, reverse gear button, dynamic vehicle settings (race, launch control, ASR excluder) within easy reach of the driver. The car can be fitted with either 3-point attachment or 4-point racing attachment seat belts and an aluminium roll-bar that‘s 40% lighter than a conventional type, developed specifically for the Challenge Stradale.