The original idea behind Enzo Ferrari’s automobiles was to go racing. That’s why he created Scuderia Ferrari, the team name for anything that the Italian company backs directly, in 1929. He wasn’t in it to build road cars. That’s all he wanted out of the vehicles he designed with Alfa Romeo as Auto Avio Costuzioni (AAC). His first badged car with his iconic last name was the 1947 125 S and the only reason he made a “road going” version was to fund his race team.
Well, road going was a relative term. The story goes that serial number 010I was actually a re-stamped 01C, a well-used race car sold as “new” by Enzo. Supposedly, the owner of the “new” car yelled out “muletto,” or Test Mule, after he realized what he was actually sold and was given a new invoice with a “discount.”
46 years later, a one-make series was created by Ferrari Club Nederland and called it the Ferrari Challenge. The original cars were based off the road version of the 348 but had racing slicks, a body kit, better brake pads, roll hoop, a smaller battery, and different seat belts.
The current version uses the outgoing 458 Challenge EVO and the incoming 488 Challenge cars. The differences between these and their road going versions is far greater than that original 348 Challenge – these cars use proper racing gear like a racing-spec driver control aides, roll cage, plexi-glass windows, air jacks, center lock wheels, and thinner body panels.
While it caters mostly to “gentlemen racers,” there are three main classes competing in the Ferrari Challenge North America: 458 EVO, Coppa Shell, and Trofeo Pirelli.
458 EVO is where the 458 Challenge EVOs run and is considered a fully amateur class but has no limits on who can race in this series. Coppa Shell, or Shell Cup, is a 488 Challenge class for drivers who are mostly new to Ferrari Challenge but have a racing resume while Coppa Shell AM is for novice drivers to both racing and the Ferrari Challenge. Trofeo Pirelli, or Pirelli Trophy, is the other 488 Challenge grouping for professional race car drivers or drivers who are well established in Ferrari Challenge. The Trofeo Pirelli AM is similar to Coppa Shell AM, but allows for amateur drivers with established resumes in other racing series.
I was invited out by Scuderia Corsa, one of the largest teams in Ferrari Challenge North America based in California, to round three of the series that took place on May 4th and 6th last year in 2018.
Most of the teams competing represent a dealership but Scuderia Corsa is a combination of the Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Beverly Hills, and the South Bay dealerships.
They also compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge as well as Indycar for the 500. This weekend, 14 drivers were driving including professional actor Michael Fassbender and professional driver Cooper MacNeil.
It also means that they come in with more than just a single trailer to service each car with a total of five semis to create their paddock.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, formally known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or just Laguna Seca, was the location for this race.
The Monterey, CA track was opened in 1957 after the Pebble Beach Road Races were declared too dangerous in 1956. It not only includes motorized road racing, but also The Sea Otter Classic, a bicycle festival that features a road race with professional riders that takes part on most the racing surface.
One of the most famous turns in all of motorsports is located here. The Corkscrew is a complex of esses 8 and 8a that was carved out of a steep downhill.
Many drivers underestimate the braking required here and will overshoot the entry, hoping there is enough traction to drive them out of the sand and back on the course. It’s what makes the track challenging and famous.
The race weekend for Ferrari Challenge has the main three classes race separate from each other. So, Trofeo Pirelli won’t race with Coppa Shell or with 458 EVO but Trofeo Pirelli and Trofeo Pirelli AM will race with each other. It’s also a two race weekend with competition on Saturday and Sunday.
Thomas Tippl of Scuderia Corsa would take victory in both Coppa Shell races with teammates Chris Carel and Michael Fassbender on podium with him on Race Two. Cooper MacNeil would take first place in race one of Trofeo Pirelli, but had to miss race two due to commitments at the WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge race at Mid-Ohio in the WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT-Daytona.
The Ferrari Challenge was started to give owners a chance to go racing in hardcore versions of their cars, much in the way that Enzo wanted to make his street cars out of committed race cars.
While they do bill themselves as “gentlemen racers,” the drivers in this series can branch out from here to race in IMSA with Cooper MacNeil and his Ferrari GT-Daytona, or they can continue to compete here as a leisurely pursuit, return to their day jobs, and then come back to the next one without worrying where to store their hobby car.
No matter which way they go, a Ferrari is racing – isn’t that the most important thing about this series?