Tradition holds that Ferrari crafts a race-spec version of its mid-engine V-8 sports coupes specifically for a one-make race series. The 458 Italia is no exemption -- the 458 Challenge was unveiled in Maranello a few weeks back, but a new batch of photos released by the automaker shows the car undergoing testing before the 2011 Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli series commences.
As previously reported, the 458 Challenge retains the 458 Italia's powertrain, but the car is placed on an extreme diet. Ferrari won't disclose how much weight is shed during the conversion to a Challenge-spec car, but the 458 does receive lighter body panels, a gutted interior, and lightweight Lexan windows in lieu of the typical glass panes.
Although the recipe seems simple enough -- take one 458 and gut it -- the car needs significant testing and tuning before it's deemed track-worthy for the Challenge race series. Ferrari is currently employing test drivers Maurizio Mediani and Jaime Melo to put the 458 Challenge through its paces at the Vallelunga circuit, which is located 20 miles north of Rome.
According to an official Ferrari release, both drivers are impressed with the car, and reportedly enjoy how electronic aids, including the F1-Trac and E-Diff systems, enhance the driving experience. We're not surprised; both systems use multiple sensors to electronically vary the power output to each rear wheel, allowing the 458 to channel as much power to the ground as physically possible. In theory, this will allow drivers to attain higher corner exit speeds, but we'll have to wait until the Challenge begins to see if drivers take full advantage of the system.
One thing's for certain: according to Melo, 458 Competition owners will be "very pleased with this car."