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The 458 Challenge made its world premiere debut in Maranello during the Annual Dealer Meeting, a traditional event that brings together the representatives of Ferrari's international sales network.
The new berlinetta, which will flank the F430 Challenge in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli in the 2011 season, is the fifth model used by Ferrari in its one-make championship which, next year, will be extended to include a new Asia-Pacific series.
Coming just a few months after the Frankfurt Motor Show unveiling of the 458 Italia on which it is based, the 458 Challenge introduces a number of important modifications to adapt it for competition use.
The direct injection 4497cc V8 remains strictly in production tune, with an output of 570hp at 9,000rpm. 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 engineers concentrating in particular on reducing the thickness of the bodyshell panels and using lightweight materials, such as carbon-fiber and Lexan. The new 458 Challenge also has a specific suspension set-up with solid aluminum bushings, stiffer springs, single-rate dampers, center-nut 19" racing rims, larger Pirelli slicks and a ride height lowered 30mm all round. It is also equipped with the new generation Brembo CCM2 brakes which debuted on the 599XX and which are integrated with an ABS system that features two configurations - low grip and high performance for dry surfaces.
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 - wet and dry - have been developed for this application, with control logic 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 acceleration out of corners.
The required ABS, 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 can thus either choose from the WET or DRY configurations. In high grip conditions it is also possible to select CT-OFF to de-activate the F1-Trac traction control.
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 is the amount of lateral grip the new car generates - up to 1.6G.