The first round of the 2017 Ferrari Challenge was just concluded at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a three-day outing, May 12-14. Affable weather accompanied the event, and although I diligently applied my sunscreen in the morning, I never felt excess heat. Just the right amount of cool air movement kept the sunny skies from overheating.

A new model is taking part in the 2017 Ferrari Challenge racing series. It comes in the form of the 488 Challenge, introduced last December as the sixth Ferrari model to take part in this one model racing set which Ferrari initiated in 1992. The Challenge was initiated by Ferrari for their clients who had a special zeal for racing. The 488 Challenge represents two firsts in the Ferrari Challenge. It is the first turbocharged Ferrari as well as the most powerful to compete in this racing series.

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Compared to its predecessor, the 458 Challenge EVO, the 488 features shorter gear ratios giving a 11.6% increase in acceleration out of turns, plus a new shift strategy for the F1 DCT gearbox. Weight reduction has been achieved in the powertrain, with 19.7 kg being cut from the engine, and 8.5 kg additional trimmed from the exhaust system. Slip angle control software, patented by Ferrari, makes its debut on Challenge cars in the 488 and betters longitudinal acceleration through bends by 4.2%.

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The most apparent advances in the 488 Challenge came in the form of aerodynamics. Engineers worked closely with the Ferrari Styling Center to achieve functionality, but also to show loyalty to the design and aesthetic principals. One very noticeable change shows itself in the form of venting ahead of the rear wheels. This alteration improved radiator airflow and reduced drag.

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A 7% increase in efficiency has been achieved by increasing the definition of the splitter and flicks for greater downforce and balance of rear load. And we are not finished yet. A larger rear wing on the 488 Challenge increases efficiency by 9%, adding stability at high speed. The rear brakes are cooled by the air intakes on the flanks, which also optimizes downforce. Engine air intakes have been repositioned under the rear spoiler, and benefit from the high pressure generated there.

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Challenge cars have very little ground clearance

During the course of the event, I spoke with several of the mechanics who prepared the cars for racing. I was interested in what they did to make the cars track and specific-driver ready. It is mainly just fluids, fuel, tires, and verifying things are operational and set to the driver’s liking. The engine is not modified, but something readily apparent and drawing spectators is the ride height. The car runs extremely close to the track. The ride height and some of the aerodynamics are adjusted by the mechanics.

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The Tifosi were present in force, mostly in the form of Ferrari owners. I have seen larger Ferrari car corrals, but this one had some Ferraris not often seen, with some were in the rare category. All were shiny and well-groomed for the occasion.

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Ferrari Owner’s Coral 2017

The Ferrari corral included some marvelous older models, including a red 1963 275P (circa 1963-4), a two-tone red and yellow 1955 750 Monza (circa 1954). Later models included a 275 GTB4 (1966-68) placed next to a 1966 275 GTB Alloy (1964-66), an F40 (1987-1992), an F50 (1995-97), and three Testarossas (1984-1996), including a 512 TR (1991-1994). Of course there were quite late models, a new 488 wearing metallic blue, noting that the 488 Spider debuted in blue, and a gorgeous 458 Italia (2009-2015) was displayed in factory “Rosso Maranello” (deep candy-apple).

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There is plenty of opportunity for drivers in the Ferrari Challenge with several class systems in place: Trofeo Pirelli 488, Trofeo Pirelli 458 EVO, Trofeo Pirelli AM/Coppa Shell, and the Ladies Cup. This event is a good platform for racing. Challenge drivers have went on to race in, and stand on the podium in races such as the 24 Houres of Le Mans. First time drivers in this Ferrari Challenge were on the podium in both Trofeo Pirelli classes including Peter Ludwig (1st), Naveen Rao (2nd), and John Boyd (3rd). Trofeo Pirelli AM also had a rookie on the podium in winner, Brent Holden. In the Ladies Cup competition Lisa Clark (Scuderia Corsa-Ferrari of Beverly Hills) narrowly bested Debra Palermo (Ferrari of San Francisco).

Race Results

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Trofeo Pirelli, 488 class

1st Place Peter Ludwig (Wide World of Cars)
2nd Place Martin Fuentes, Scuderia Corsa-Ferrari of Silicon Valley
3rd Place Cooper McNeil, Scuderia Corsa-Ferrari of Silicon Valley

Trofeo Pirelli 458 EVO class

1st Place Joseph Rubbo (Ferrari of Long Island)
2nd Place Naveen Rao (Ferrari of San Diego)
3rd Place John Boyd (Ferrari of Denver).
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Ferrari 458 Italia in Rosso Maranello

The next round of Ferrari Challenge in Montreal, June 9-11. Seven races are scheduled for 2017, with the last over October 26-29 in Mugello, Italy, the Finali MondiaI. Aribadecci!

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