Thirteen years ago, I had a eureka moment. Some friends invited me to a track day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I showed up in my Maserati street car and got bit by the bug. As much fun as it is to drive a street car on a track, it is way more fun to drive a race car. Some of my friends had Ferrari Challenge cars. Eleven years ago, I bought the one you see pictured here.
A Ferrari Challenge car is a race car created for a racing series called Ferrari Challenge, featured in North America, Europe and Asia. The race car is based on a Ferrari street car. In 2000, the Challenge car was based on the Ferrari 360, and it was built at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy.
Unlike the street car, this vehicle has no AC, no heat, no electric windows or locks, and no real dashboard. It has an instrument cluster on an LCD display so you can see all the engine data in one place. It also has a roll cage for safety, a fire-suppression system, two race seats and five-point harnesses in place of the regular seat belts. In essence, it is lighter and faster than the street car.
It is not street legal, however, so I tow it behind a Ford Excursion to track days. Most are held through the Ferrari Club of America. (I am the director of the New England chapter.) But people show up in all kinds of machinery—Porsches, BMWs, Corvettes, etc. We gather at tracks like Lime Rock in Connecticut, Watkins Glen in upstate New York, or sometimes in the southeast. For longer hauls, I have the Ferrari shipped and I buy a plane ticket.
The car is a cream puff. It makes you look like you are a genius because it is so easy to drive fast. Ferraris are famous for their engine song, and this car’s 3.6-liter V-8 has none of the noise-dampening that you find in street-legal cars, so it is especially distinctive.
Part of the fun comes after the driving. At track events, you find people like me who can talk cars all day long. Mostly we talk about lap times. We are all friends, but of course, we all want to be the fastest.