The Dodge Viper Cup recently laid claim to being the fastest one-make road racing series in the world, fueled by the Viper ACR-X's massive 640-horsepower, 8.4-liter V-10. But today's release of the Ferrari 458 Challenge race car, based on the 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, puts the Prancing Horse in contention with the Trofeo Pirelli series.

Sure, the Viper still has 70 horsepower on the 458 Challenge race car, since the Challenge gets a stock production car's engine, and the ACR-X has proved it's no joke in terms of handling by lapping the Nurburgring's Nordschleife in 7:22, but the 458 Italia has been hailed as one of the most brilliant road cars ever built. And that's before it got the race car treatment.

The racing version gets new gear ratios and a more tightly calibrated tune on the dual-clutch 'F1' gearbox, boosting low-end grunt and matching top-end speed to those likely to be found on a typical European circuit. It also gets a drastic weight-savings program, with the interior stripped down and the exterior body panels reduced in thickness and/or made of carbon fiber, and much of the glass replaced by Lexan.

The suspension setup is likewise sharpened for racing use, with solid aluminum bushings, stiffer springs, single-rate dampers, and center-nut 19-inch allow wheels mated to Pirelli slicks. Braking is handled by the Brembo CCM2 carbon-cermaic units also found on the 599XX and a two mode ABS system. Traction control comes from the F1-Trac system, developed to maximize performance while minimizing slip. It, too, has two modes, to be used depending on surface conditions.

One other production-car element that carries over directly to the race car, besides the engine, is the E-Diff electronic limited slip rear differential. It's the first time Ferrari has put the unit in a track-only car, indicating that the standard production 458 Italia is facing no deficiency in that department.


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