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Porsche had paved the way for the single-brand, single-product Challenge with the Porsche Cup. On weekends, (happy) owners of Porsche 944 Turbo, then Porsche 911 were engaged in knife battles! The return of the Gentlemen Drivers in the 1960s. With this in mind, Ferrari tried the adventure in 1993 with the Ferrari Challenge. Mission accomplished, success was achieved and nearly 50 Ferrari 348 “courted” Ferrari 348s competed on weekends on the circuit. With the Ferrari F355, Maranello moved up a gear and improved its sedan, which became the F355 “Challenge”…
Fortunately, we find the lines of the Ferrari F355, designed with unparalleled success by Pininfarina and her wind tunnel. A true stylistic heir to the Ferrari 348 lineage, the F355 Challenge, on the other hand, like its sisters in the series, has abandoned some very “eighties” eccentricities such as the square tail lights behind the grid for classic round lights. Similarly, the lines have softened compared to the 348, which has gained both grace and elegance. A grace that turns into aggressiveness and sportiness on the F355 Challenge since the trim is lowered, the wheels are wider with a more negative camber, which accentuates the sportiness of this racing berlinette. As a worthy competition car, the F355 Challenge does not allow its towing rings to protrude elegantly from its front and rear bumpers in the event of a breakdown or accident on the circuit. The entire lower part of the hull, as on standard models, benefits from a neat aerodynamics with a fairing that improves airflow under the car and promotes ground effect (like a suction cup). This allows the F355s to dispense with a fin. But it should be noted that from 1999 the F355 Challenge will win a rear spoiler that will contribute to improving the offset and therefore the speed of passage in curves. The interior may look identical to a standard F355 to the layman, but the discerning enthusiast will detect new bucket seats with a cage hoop and harnesses. All soundproofing was removed to save weight, and some pilots also chose to remove the air conditioner. For racing purposes, a fire extinguisher is also standard. Finally, we always find with pleasure the metal grid and the fine lever overhung by its ball… In the small details, the stylized “Challenge” monogram is attached to that of “F355” on the stern of the car.
Although the original mechanics of the standard F355 are particularly efficient and well designed, Maranello’s engineers have had to rethink many of the details associated with intensive racing use. In order to ensure that moving parts are always ideally lubricated, the lubrication system is optimized to be more efficient. The cooling fans are larger so that the 40-valve V8 can breathe as well as possible. All gearbox and engine mounts are replaced by stronger models and the exhaust is more efficient and noisier! The result of the engineers’ work brings the power to 380 hp at 8,250 rpm, an improvement of 60 horsepower compared to the last Ferrari 348 Challenge! The competitors were strictly monitored by the technical commissaires of the Ferrari Challenge and the V8s were only allowed to make simple adjustments. The gearbox is arranged transversely and has six gears (with reverse).
The chassis is based on the standard F355s. Logically, we therefore find a supporting steel frame with welded tubes of variable cross-sections. An auxiliary chassis on which the powertrain is grafted accompanies it according to a method widely proven at Ferrari (the Ferrari BB 512i was already designed in this way). The bodywork is therefore placed like a skin on the chassis and is made of aluminium and steel depending on the parts. The four wheels are independent and are fixed on superposed quadrilateral suspensions. The damping of the standard version is retained with its electronic active control to limit changes in attitude according to the dynamic circumstances of the car. This is all the more useful in racing (compared to road use) where the importance of being able to brake as late and as well as possible in order to play as well as possible on mass transfer is vital. Four ventilated discs take care of braking the car at best and above all for a long time with an ABS that could be disconnected for demanding drivers. The 18-inch wheels were equipped with either 245/265-18 AV and 305/645-18 AR Pirelli slicks or 225/40 ZR 18 AV and 265/40 ZR 18 AR Pirelli PZero rain tyres.
Our Ferrari F355 Challenge was delivered new in 1995. It took part to the 2001 Spa Ferrari Days in its black and yellow livery, the colours of Ferrari UK. It became then the property of Charlie White in 2005, who drove it for several seasons in the Pirelli Ferrari Open often on the podium, and regularly in the top 5. Serviced in 2015 by Toni Auto, it has since been rarely used, just for a few track days and more recently for a demonstration at the Global Endurance Legends by Peter Auto in 2018. It has been well maintained in working order by its current owner at a workshop in the south of France hosting many of these racing cars from the 90s-2010s. With less than 20,000km, the security equipments are up to date. The F355 Challenge is the perfect car both on track days, as well as for the new series celebrating the more recent racing cars.