2017 Ferrari 488 Challenge
The third racing version of the 488 GTB hits the track in the Ferrari Challenge seriesby Ciprian Florea, on
Unveiled in 2015, the Ferrari 488 GTB replaced the successful and still very potent 458 Italia in the lineup. Although the new sports car isn’t radically different than its predecessor, it created a small revolution in Maranello’s lineage of entry-level supercars by introducing the turbocharged engine. Arguably the most important upgrade, the force-fed, 3.9-liter V-8, replaced the iconic, naturally aspirated 4.5-liter V-12. Like its predecessor, the 488 received a convertible version (Spider), as well as two racing variants for international motorsport series, GTE and GT3. For 2017, the 488 also replaced the 458 Challenge in the company’s one-make racing series.
Unveiled at the Ferrari World Finals event in Daytona in December 2016, the 488 Challenge is the sixth model to participate in the one-make series. Set to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2017, the Ferrari Challenge was established in 1992 and has so far, used Challenge-spec versions of the 348, F355, 360, F430, and 458. Having hosted over 1,000 races, with over 1,000 drivers taking part in up to three series organised on three continents, the Ferrari Challenge series has proved to be an ideal starting point for drivers looking to compete in international GT and prototype championships. Needless to say, it’s not surprising that Ferrari was so quick to replace the 458 Italia with the faster and more aerodynamic 488 GTB in the one-make racing series.
The new Ferrari 488 Challenge will make its North American track debut in January 2017 at the Daytona International Speedway. The Ferrari Challenge North America season will also include races at Sonoma Raceway, Circuit of the Americas, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Lime Rock Park, and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Continue reading to learn more about the Ferrari 488 Challenge.
2017 Ferrari 488 Challenge
Just like its predecessor, the 488 Challenge is a slightly beefed-up version of the standard road car as far as design goes. This is most noticeable things are up front, where Ferrari redesigned a significant amount of features. First, the front radiator layout was reworked, inverting the rake so that they are now inclined towards the rear. This solution improves the air flow over the radiators in racing conditions while also reducing drag. The new layout required new vents at the bottom of the bumper ahead of the wheels. In order to further improve aerodynamics, Ferrari added winglets at each corner of the splitter, as we as on each side of the bumper.
Just like its predecessor, the 488 Challenge is a slightly beefed-up version of the standard road car.
The front hood is also new and features a triple vent design with integrated flaps that direct the hot airflow from the radiators toward the rear of the car. Other details that set the Challenge apart from the 488 GTB are the quick-release hood pins on each side of the nose and body-colored plastic covers that hide almost 75 percent of the headlamps.
More changes are visible on the sides, starting with the more aggressive side skirts and race-speed wheels wrapped in slick tires. The door windows have been replaced by lightweight plastic panels with sliding center section, while the quarter window was removed to make way for a race-spec fuel cap. Around back, modifications include mesh grilles for the taillights outlets and diffuser, a black-painted center fascia, and more importantly, a massive carbon-fiber wing that’s bigger than the one that came with the 458 Challenge. This new wing is based on that of the 488 GTE and increases efficiency by nine percent compared to the 458 Challenge EVO. Also, the revised aero package increases overall airflow and downforce efficiency by seven percent.
Finally, the presentation car sports a cool new livery with white and blue accents over the bright-yellow body. The livery includes the number 25 on the doors, added to celebrate the Ferrari Challenge’s 25th anniversary.
While the exterior reminds of the road-going 488 GTB, the cockpit is a significant departure from the sports car it is based on. Even though most race cars retain the dashboard of their road-legal sibling, Ferrari altered the unit to the point that it no longer resembles the production element. The stylish and classic looking center stack has been replaced by a huge panel that’s oriented toward the driver and houses many buttons and switches, including the master ignition, reverse, and knobs for the A/C fan and windshield wiper. Atop the center stack sits a screen that displays images from the rear-view camera, providing the driver with information as to what goes around behind the car.
While the exterior reminds of the road-going 488 GTB, the cockpit is a significant departure.
The steering wheel is also new, and even though it doesn’t stray too far from the 488 GTB’s, this one’s clearly a race-spec unit. Wrapped in Alcantara for the best grip, it features a yellow stripe at the 12-o’clock position and several buttons, including for radio communication and to request a pit stop. The shifting paddles behind it are made from carbon-fiber and are massive compared to those in a standard 488 GTB. The instrument cluster area is the only part of the dash that still retains the original shape, but the gauges are gone and the display is much simpler and includes only the basic stuff, which is ideal in a race car.
In order for the full roll cage to fit inside the cockpit, the A/C vents at each corner of the dashboard were removed. The standard door panels have also been replaced with lightweight panels, while the floor carpeting was removed completely. The passenger seat was ditched, while the driver’s seat was replaced by a race-spec unit with aggressive bolstering and Alcantara upholstery. Other add-ons include aluminum pedals, carbon-fiber bits for the center stack and instrument panel, and a fire extinguishing system.
As it is the case with all Challenge models, the 488 retains the of standard model. That said, the race car comes with the same 660 horsepower 560 pound-feet of torque on tap, which makes it the most powerful Challenge ever created. But while the turbocharged, 3.9-liter V-8 has the output of the road-going 488 GTB, many drivetrain components have been revised for intense track use. For instance, it has a specific engine mapping optimised for increased racing racing performance, as well as shorter gear ratios that provide up to an 11.6 percent increase in acceleration out of turns compared to its predecessor. The F1 DCT transmission also features a new racing shift strategy which enables the car to accelerate from a standstill to maximum revs in fourth gear in just six seconds.
With a lap time of 1:15.5 minutes, the 488 Challenge is only a second slower than the FXX-K.
The drivetrain is also lighter, with 19.7 kg (43.4 pounds) being shaved off the engine alone due to lighter, race-spec components. A further 8.5 kg (18.7 pounds) was saved by installing a new exhaust system.
The Slip Angle Control software that Ferrari patented for the 488 GTB also made its way into the Challenge model, improving the longitudinal acceleration through bends by 4.2 percent. Further enhancements include the decoupling of the manettino function regulating the electronic vehicle dynamic controls. Rather than using a single manettino for all software setting, the functions have been separated into two, on either side of the steering wheel. The right-hand manettino (called the TC1) alters the level of intervention required based on the levels of grip, while the left-hand one (TC2) controls the degree of intensity of intervention. Ferrari says that this results in a more tailored degree of integration between the driver and the car and enhanced performance.
Speaking of performance, all the developments above coupled with the revised aerodynamics make the 488 Challenge a full second quicker than the 458 Challenge EVO on the Fiorano race track. What’s more, with a lap time of 1:15.5 minutes, the 488 Challenge is only a second slower than the FXX-K and a second quicker than the FXX Evoluzione. The new Challenge is also four seconds quicker than the LaFerrari supercar on the same track! Compared to the standard 488 GTB, the Challenge is a whooping eight seconds quicker. The Maranello crew has yet to publish acceleration and top speed figures, but it’s safe to assume it’s quicker than the road-going 488. With the GTB needing three seconds to reach 60 mph, I’d say that the Challenge can get there in 2.9 ticks, which is pretty impressive. Top speed, on the other hand, is either unchanged at 205 mph or lower, as it usually happens with race cars.
Pricing information is not yet available, but don’t expect the 488 Challenge to be cheap. With the previous Challenge model priced at around $300,000, the new race car should cost anywhere between $320,000 and $350,000. For reference, the road-going 488 GTB starts from around $270,000.
If you’re planning to join the Ferrari Challenge series, you should also keep in mind that there are additional costs to go racing. For instance, if the car is run by a dealer team, racing will cost at least $20,000 per race weekend, a sticker that includes crew support, a fee to Ferrari North America, transportation and living costs, fuel, and tires. Privateer entries can be run at a slightly lower cost, but competitors still need around $200,000 to run a full season. All told, be prepared to spend at least half a million bucks to buy a 488 Challenge and race it in the 2017 season.
Just like its predecessors, the 488 Challenge was created for the Ferrari Challenge series only, which means it won’t be raced against other sports cars. This means there are no direct competitors to talk about. However, the Ferrari Challenge isn’t the only one-make series going on in Europe, North America, and Asia, so if you’re not a fan of the Ferrari 488, there are other cars and competitions to turn to.
Lambo has it very own one-make series. It’s called the Super Trofeo, it’s being raced in Europe since 2009 and in North America since 2013. Originally created for the Gallardo, the Super Trofeo series is now being contested by Huracan drivers. Unveiled for the 2015 season, the Huracan LP 620-2 is very similar to the 488 Challenge, in the way that it’s also a beefed-up sports car equipped with everything it needs to perform at the race track. The upgrade includes aggressive aerodynamics that give the car a menacing look, an FIA-spec interior, and a slightly upgraded engine. However, the Lambo still uses a naturally aspirated engine in the form of a 5.2-liter V-12 that cranks out 611 horsepower. More than 300 pounds lighter than the standard model, the Huracan Super Trofeo is the lightest Lambo you can buy for less than $400,000.
Learn more about the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo here.
If German machinery is what gets you going, Porsche is already offering an upgraded 911 GT3 Cup for the 2017 racing season. The cool thing about this car is that it is not restricted to just one even. Buy one and you can race in a wide range of competitions, including the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup North America among a total of 20 race series for customer teams around the world. Essentially an update version of the 991-generation GT3 Cup model, it features small revisions inside and out, but gets a brand-new engine under the hood. Specifically, Porsche replaced the previous 3.8-liter flat-six unit with a larger, 4.0-liter engine that generates 485 horsepower. Like the Lambo Huracan, it uses a naturally aspirated powerplant. Pricing information is not available, but chances are the 911 GT3 Cup is the most affordable car in this comparison.
Find out more about the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup here.
Although Challenge-branded cars don’t get to prove their skills against competition from other sports car manufacturers, they’re as important as the GT3- and GTE-spec models to Ferrari. The Challenge series has been giving Ferrari enthusiasts the opportunity to drive their favorite sports cars on race tracks ever since it debuted in 1993, while also providing young talent with a solid background before moving into professional racing. It’s the kind of adventure amateur racers are anxious to get on and it’s what makes the Ferrari Challenge series really cool. The 488 Challenge brings an important change with its turbocharged engine, but the successful story of this one-make series is bound to continue unaltered without the naturally aspirated V-12 units.