If all you know about the Daytona International Speedway comes from watching NASCAR races, you’re probably unaware that the track also contains a challenging infield road course for sports car competition.
Like the tri-oval, Daytona’s road course is both fast and demanding, with Ferrari 458 Challenge cars reaching speeds of nearly 200 mph before they’re hard on the binders for turn one. Factor in the kind of pack racing fostered by starts and restarts, and the narrow infield corners don’t allow much margin for error.
Ferrari’s 458 Challenge recently opened its 2013 season at the Daytona International Speedway. The series is designed for amateur racers to compete head to head, in identically-prepared cars, in a single marque spec series. Races are organized by Ferrari North America, and the events are sanctioned by the GrandAm series.
As you’d expect, races are generally held in conjunction with GrandAm events, though the full 2013 Ferrari Challenge schedule has yet to be published. Ferrari 458 Italia Challenge race cars are maintained (and transported to events) by authorized Ferrari dealers, making it an arrive-and-drive event for participants.
While 458 Challenge cars don’t put out more than the 562 horsepower produced by production 458 Italia models, the race cars use carbon fiber bodywork, polycarbonate windows and thinner panels to shed pounds. Even the addition of an FIA-approved roll cage and air jacks doesn’t bring the car up to the weight of the street version.
Driver Damon Ockey does a great job of narrating a lap of Daytona, making this a worthwhile video to watch before you hit the track yourself. Unless you’re behind the wheel of a 458 Challenge car and have plenty of seat time, you may want to use an earlier braking marker for your initial laps.