A beast of brute force and a clockwork of rare nuance, Ferrari owners take part in an exclusive racing club.
The story of Ferrari is one of irrepressible spirit, and the Challenge Series a rare glimpse into their celebrated past. Much more than a supercar, Ferrari is an experience. Founded seventy years ago for the purpose of racing, today the track remains at the very heart and soul of the brand. Those who own one of these beauties are invited to participate in Ferrari’s elite owners only racing group: a gentlemen’s racing series called Challenge. A single-marque motorsport championship originally created in 1993 for owners of the 348 Berlinetta that wanted to become involved in racing, now encompasses three official championships in the United States, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Challenge, which uses a single model from Ferrari’s road car range suitably modified to make them safe for competition use, announced the 488 Challenge car for the 2017 season. Nearly mechanically identical to the 488 Spider road car, Ferrari even somehow makes racing seem white glove. Owners interested in Challenge are paired with a local dealer who orders the car and provides maintenance on the track as well as repairs and race support. With no need to keep any tools on hand, this concierge approach to racing is quite extraordinary. Drivers wake up, show up and get to be a Formula One guy for the weekend, in true Ferrari form.
Beyond the racing club, Challenge connects Ferrari owners with two distinct perks – one, the ability to schedule a tour of the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy and two, their driving school. Committed to offering the ultimate experience, Ferrari makes sure owners racing learn to drive their car on a racetrack with professional drivers. The theory here is to improve driving ability to get somewhere near the capabilities of what the vehicles can actually do. The genuine spirit, interest and support of the instructors, who themselves are racecar drivers, is a testament to the importance of race-bred technology in shaping Ferrari’s legendary road cars.
According to Neil Langberg, Ferrari owner and Challenge Series racer, “it’s easy to find a collection of folks who know how to drive their cars fast, but to have an instructor sit in the passenger seat and teach in a way that’s understandable and to actually be able to improve is a different thing completely. The Ferrari driver development program turns owners into racecar drivers, and with enough skill that they’re not only competitive, but they finish races without incident and get a chance to have some fun”.
When it comes to race day, technicians work tirelessly to make sure participants are ready to go, and 100% safe. “It’s Ferrari’s mini version of NASCAR,” says Langberg. “Everyone is so focused on you (the driver). It’s really unique – it’s the one time where the world goes away and you can completely tune out the daily grind. There’s no room for distraction at 160 mph on a back straight away at the course of the Americas. It’s your chance at living the dream”. Challenge drivers get to experience firsthand some of the most famous tracks in the world with races at Monza, Mugello, Le Mans, Daytona, Sonoma, Montreal, Shanghai, Fuji and Sepang.
More than a race, the Challenge Series offers a way for Ferrari owners to connect, and as you meet the racers, what you find is that everyone has their own reason for signing up. Some people drive for fun, other people drive for purpose. In Neil’s case, this year he drives for a cause as he races for RP (relapsing polychondritis), a rare autoimmune disease, in support of his wife, Nancy. Unparalleled in design and spirit, Ferrari is much more a lifestyle then a brand.
By Kara Studzinski