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by George Skentzos

The Ferrari 458 Challenge has made its world premiere in Maranello overnight just a few short months after the unveiling of the Ferrari 458 Italia on which it is based.

Not to be confused with the Ferrari 458 Scuderia which will be a track-focussed edition of the road-going model, the Ferrari 458 Challenge is destined to compete in Ferrari’s one-make championship for the 2011 series.

The Ferrari 458 Challenge introduces a number of important modifications to adapt it for competition use, although the glorious 4497 cc V8 remains strictly in production tune, with an output of 425kW at 9,000 rpm.

The gear ratios have been optimised for the track along with a recalibration of the dual-clutch F1 gearbox to ensure higher torque at lower revs.

It is also equipped with the E-Diff electronic differential already employed on the road-going version which is a first for Ferrari’s track-only cars.

Special attention has been paid to reduce the car’s overall weight, concentrating on reducing the thickness of the body panels and on using lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and Lexan for the windows.

The Ferrari 458 Challenge has also received an extensive suspension overhaul with solid aluminium bushings, stiffer springs, single-rate dampers, centre-nut 19-inch racing rims, larger dimension Pirelli slicks and a ride height lowered by 30mm all round.

It is equipped with the latest-generation Brembo carbon ceramic brake package which debuted with the Ferrari 599XX incorporating two ABS configurations – low grip and high performance for dry surfaces.

Since the car is destined for professional and gentlemen drivers alike, it also incorporates an F1-Trac traction control system – the most sophisticated of its kind developed in-house by Ferrari.

The system constantly monitors levels of grip with two specific track-biased calibrations – wet and dry – to guarantee optimum road-holding and maximum acceleration out of corners.

Ferrari engineers have managed to lap the benchmark Fiorano circuit a full two seconds faster than the car’s predecessor, resulting in a new record of just 1’16.5″.

Importantly, affluent Australian gentlemen drivers may compete in the championship for the first time on home soil, with Ferrari announcing that it would include a new Asia-Pacific series for 2011.

For the rest of us, click the image above for a high-resolution, wallpaper-sized version of the Ferrari 458 Challenge.




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