At the 2003 New York International Auto Show, Ferrari introduced a limited-production Challenge Stradale, which had first been unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland a month earlier. Created to participate in the 360 Challenge racing series, the Stradale brings motorsports technology and experiences to regular roads. Ferrari promises that it will convey “the very essence of a racing car.” Only 200 examples of the street-legal coupe will be sent to the U.S. market.
The Challenge Stradale is strictly a limited-production model. It takes the elements of the 360 Modena coupe and transforms them into a true race-bred machine. The Challenge Stradale is highly aerodynamic and particularly light in weight, which is due in part to its aluminum and carbon-fiber construction. The 3.6-liter V-8 engine develops 425 horsepower at 8,500 rpm, which is 25 hp more than the engine in the regular 360 Modena cranks out.
Any feature that didn’t improve performance or safety was minimized or eliminated, according to Ferrari. Sitting 15 millimeters lower than the 360 Modena, the Challenge Stradale weighs 3,000 pounds. A race-inspired exhaust system is installed, and the driver operates a Formula One-style transmission. Braking performance has been enhanced by using carbon brakes. The springs are made of titanium. Specific Pirelli tires on 19-inch Challenge wheels are held on with titanium lug nuts.
The Challenge Stradale’s styling is similar to the regular 360 Modena. Both have similar all-aluminum bodies and chassis, but the Challenge Stradale uses carbon fiber for the door panels, floor pan and other components. As seen at the New York auto show, the Stradale was painted “Rosso Scuderia” — the same red used on Formula One cars.
A modified bumper extends below the air intakes, and designers have increased the car’s height at the rear and added longitudinal fins to balance the load. Newly shaped sills streamline the back wheels more fully. New 19-inch wheels have a Challenge-type design. Aerodynamic carbon mirrors resemble those installed on the 360 GT.
As with the 360 Modena, only two passengers get to ride in the Challenge Stradale. Wraparound leather seats and wind-down windows go in the regular Challenge Stradale, while an extreme version features racing-style seats and sliding windows that were last used on the famed Ferrari F40.
Racing-style instruments go into both versions. A large tachometer with yellow graphics and a red indicator sits directly ahead of the driver. The interior is notably stark and lacks such comfort features as carpeting and floormats. The new steering wheel has a squashed crown in its upper section.
Under the Hood
Ferrari’s 3.6-liter V-8 engine develops 425 hp at 8,500 rpm and 275 pounds-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm in the Challenge Stradale. The sports car can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds. Built with five valves per cylinder, the V-8 uses titanium connecting rods. The engine mates with a six-speed, electrohydraulic Formula One-style transmission that operates using paddles on the steering wheel. Sport and Race modes are available, and a tunnel button is used to select the Reverse gear.
The Challenge Stradale may be fitted with either three-point or four-point racing seat belts and a special aluminum roll bar.