Ever since I got bitten by the absolute rawness and unbelievably good driving experience of the F40, most of the newer offerings from Maranello have left me somewhat cold. Sports cars keep getting heavier, plusher, with more creature comforts. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think having Bluetooth and a touch screen stereo should be the defining reason to give the nod to a Ferrari, but many of my Fcar friends seem to be in search of the perfect stereo interface and spot at the valet stand, rather than the perfect apex.
Enter the Ferrari Challenge Stradale. The marketing boys in Maranello touted it as a throwback to the days of the SWB. The days when you could drive your car to the LeMans 24hrs…. win and drive home. While it is unrealistic to pull that off today, could they reproduce the experience of the racing versions of the 360 Challenge and GT2 race cars? The short answer is YES!
While car shopping I considered the Lamborghini Gallardo, or a regular 360, as the prices for these cars are coming down from the lofty heights of a few years ago. Between those two, the Gallardo was the vastly better performance car, hands down. For a little contrast I went to test a ‘Stradale’ to see why on earth these things are commanding double the price of a pedestrian 360.
From the moment the door opens to a swathe of alcantara, carbon fiber and lack of carpet, you realize this ain’t your daddy’s 360! Everything about it screams ‘go fast’…. and isn’t that what one should be buying an exotic car for?
Could this Stradale thing be worth the extra dosh? As soon as you figure out the convoluted Italian engineered alarm system, press that rosso starter button and hear the bark of that flat plane crank V8, you know you are in for something special.
Everything about the performance envelope takes the game to new levels, that your work-a-day 360 could never hope to achieve. The responses are perfect. The steering is sublime and the lack of sound proofing brings you just that much closer to the action. I was sold!
All the modifications that are a trickle down from Ferrari’s racing programs hit the mark, spot on. The car is 110 kg lighter that the standard car by the generous use of carbon fiber, titanium for the 20% stiffer springs, wheel bolts, carbon ceramic brakes and even perspex for the rear window. It also doesn’t hurt that they managed to massage another 25hp out of the 3.6 liter V8. Ferrari let the engineers have their way, and let the marketing guys figure out how to sell it, rather than the usual pattern of focus groups and marketing gurus.
Now that the other two were eliminated from the running, the search for just the right CS began. I have had quite a few red Ferraris over the years, so this one had to be not red and no stripe. I felt that this car needed to shout less about looking at me, and speak with the subtlety of its lower stance and aggressive styling cues, and that great exhaust note.
After looking at a number of cars, the trigger was pulled on the titanium car you see before you. All books, tools, records and window sticker.
The first drive after delivery did not disappoint, and I have a track day scheduled in a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted…..