The 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia is undoubtedly a suburb car, and while it can hold its own on a closed circuit, the car is primarily intended for on-road use. For those seeking to leverage the 458's performance prowess primarily as a track toy, Ferrari has a solution: the 2011 458 Challenge, which was unviled this morning at the 2010 Bologna Motor Show.
As has previously been the case with previous Challenge-spec forms of its mid-engine sports cars (i.e. F355 Challenge, 360 Challenge, F430 Challenge, etc.), the race-spec 458 is built specifically for the one-make Ferrari Challenge race series. Although the car and its spec sheet echo that of the standard road-going 458, there are a few key differences that help prepare the Challenge for sustained track abuse.
The 458 Challenge continues to utilize the exact same 570-horsepower, 4.5-liter V-8 as its consumer-biased cousin, but engineers did tweak the gear ratios within the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, allowing torque to be delivered lower in the power band. We imagine acceleration times will also be lower than those of the stock car, seeing as Ferrari's put the car on a crash diet. Along with stripping the cabin of all non-essential components, the automaker has increased the number of carbon fiber panels used in the body structure, along with fabricating all windows from Lexan composite.
Like its predecessors, the 458 Challenge receives a new suspension setup; engineers gifted the car with adjustable dampers and stiffer springs at all four corners, while simultaneously lowering the ride height by 1.9 inches. Brembo-sourced carbon ceramic brakes are fitted as standard equipment, along with new 19-inch, center-lug wheels wrapped in R-compound Pirelli rubber. According to Ferrari, the modifications allow the Challenge to pull an organ-smashing 1.6 lateral g on the company's skidpad.
Previous Challenge cars were stripped of the advanced traction control and launch systems found in their street-legal counterparts, but that isn't the case here. Instead, the 458 Italia receives a form of the automaker's trick traction control system, which was derived from its F1 race cars. Three user-selectable settings can be triggered from the steering wheel; levels one and two offer varying levels of assistance, but those with considerable race experience (or sheer bravado) can completely defeat the system altogether.
Ferrari has yet to announce any additional performance metrics for the 458 Challenge, but did note the car can lap its Fiorano test track in 1:16.5, roughly two seconds quicker than a normal 458 Italia. Production of 458 Challenge models is expected to be quite limited, and each will likely command a significant premium over the 458 Italia's $230,000 price tag.