Ferrari organizes and manages a series of worldwide events exclusively for customers, allowing them to both race and track time for their Ferraris. Under an overall umbrella, they include both “Corse Clienti” lapping programs and the Ferrari Challenge racing program.
Ferrari Corse Clienti / Challenge group photo at Indianapolis in 2021. Roger Penske himself was on hand to lead the Challenge drivers on laps around the oval. Photo courtesy of FNA (Ferrari North America)
The 488 of Jeremy Clarke at the Daytona night race in 2022. He is one of the top leaders of the Trofeo Pirelli class. Photo courtesy of Scuderia Corsa.
Mike Louli of Toronto has probably been in the challenge the longest of anyone. He started in the 1990s and is still a regular. He drives with Ferrari of Ontario (R. Ferri). Martin Raffauf photo.
“The Joker”, Dave Musial, Ferrari of Lake Forest. He is a former champion of the Pirelli -Am classification. Here at Daytona in 2022. Martin Raffauf photo.
The Ferrari Challenge Race Series
The Ferrari Challenge is a race series where drivers and customers can race their purpose-built competition Ferrari 488- Evo (short for evolution) cars in a spec series (that is all the cars are to the same specification).
There are four distinct series in the world (all using the same Ferrari 488-EVO model), Europe, Great Britain, United States and Asia. Each area ordinarily has six weekend events in their own locale, then all meet up at the season-ending World Finals for a seventh event plus a Finali Mondiali for all cars from all four regional series.
The drivers are grouped by skill level into classes ranging from beginners to the more experienced. The categories are:
Trofeo Pirelli – Drivers with an accomplished experience in racing
Trofeo Pirelli Am (Amateur) – People with some experience possibly in other series, or drivers who have been promoted from lower classes in previous years.
Coppa Shell – Novice Drivers who have demonstrated some racing experience
Coppa Shell Am – Normally people who are just starting out who have completed Ferrari driving school and have limited experience.
There is also a Ladies cup (any lady driver), and a Gentleman’s cup (over 65 years of age). As drivers improve, they are moved up in class. It is normal for the top three in a lower class (Shell Amateur) to be moved up in class in subsequent seasons.
The Drivers meeting at Daytona in 2022. Attendance is mandatory as race director Todd Snyder reviews track safety issues, rules of the road, and reviews training videos. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Canadian Martin Burrowes at Sonoma Raceway in 2021. He races with Ferrari of Quebec. Long time IMSA driver JF Dumoulin is his coach and team manager. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Along with the Challenge, Ferrari North America provides several other activities for people starting out to gain experience prior to being accepted into the Challenge Series. There are two formal programs that provide a “farm team approach” for people to get started. Corso Pilota is a separate group of events (several per year) which are driver training schools organized in steps, initially with Ferrari Road cars.
The final steps culminate in a full competition course in the actual 488 Challenge Evo car. These are organized by Ferrari to train drivers at every level of experience. In most cases (short of having previous experience) drivers must complete these courses before being allowed into the Challenge. People may also compete in the Challenge directly from their previous experience with an existing valid competition license from recognized organizations.
Some events run at night. Here in Texas 2021, cars prepare for a night practice. Martin Raffauf Photo.
An additional level of activity on Challenge weekends is Club Challenge. This consists of timed lapping with both older model and current Ferrari Challenge specification of cars. This is frequently used by drivers who have completed the schools but need more practice.
There is a committee, consisting of FNA (Ferrari North America), Head series coach Didier Theys and IMSA, who determine who is qualified and what category a driver would fit in. To race in the Challenge series, an IMSA racing license is required (not the case for Corso Pilota or Club Challenge).
As of 2021, there is a 3rd group that is part of the Challenge weekend (in North America). This is the Club Competizioni GT. This is an option for customers who own GT3 cars (Ferraris) to also run and have open lapping sessions during the weekend. It allows them to drive these cars at their own pace and not in competition. Some use this as preparation for upcoming GT3 events (both IMSA and SRO). Others just to learn the car and drive it outside of a professional race setting.
Roy Carroll’s Le Mans GTE Pro Le Mans entry used the Club GT session at Watkins Glen as a shake down prior to shipping the car to Le Mans. Run by Riley Motorsports, they would finish 4th in class. Martin Raffauf photo.
The Ferrari Challenge series is similar in concept to other single make series such as the Porsche Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Mazda MX5 Cup, but of course, Ferrari does things with their own flair and panache.
The challenge is also the largest single make series currently running in the world, as well as the longest continuously running single make series ever. 2022 USA events have featured over 100 cars running in the three different Challenge event activities with the racing challenge series being the largest group of 488s running.
By rule, all entrants must be associated with an official Ferrari Dealer. Some dealers run their own teams; others hire outside teams to represent them. Cars and Parts are sold through Ferrari North America and the US Dealers.
Jorge Herrera stands next to Todd Coleman’s 488 at Watkins Glen in 2022. A former IMSA mechanic, he is the team principal of the HP Tech team which runs cars for multiple dealers. Coleman’s is with Ferrari of Denver. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The Challenge is sometimes a family affair. Onofrio Triarsi, a former Challenge Champion driver, now runs the Ferrari of Central Florida team as team principal. Here his mother (who along with his father own the dealership) helps with repairs at Circuit of the Americas in 2022. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The racing is usually superb, with close finishes and plenty of excitement. The challenge in the USA is to some extent, unique. The amount of track time scheduled for each event is extensive. The normal format includes testing on a Wednesday and Thursday, followed by official practice of 3 hours on Friday.
Saturday and Sunday feature a qualifying session and race each day. The two days are treated as separate events for points. Ferrari North America facilitates this by almost always holding events on their own, not part of any other series. This allows them to set the schedule at their choosing, not dependent on other series or events.
The only exception recently has been the Montreal event which runs as a support race for the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. This normally allows for plenty of practice time. Most drivers retain driving coaches, usually pro drivers or ex drivers from pro GT racing. Coaches are under the direction of Ferrari head coach, Didier Theys.
Frequent Driver meetings are held by IMSA at the events, reviewing track specifics and driving videos in the effort to assist with learning.
Michael Petramalo, Ferrari of Seattle, run by MG1Motorsports leaves the pits during a rainstorm at Indy in 2022. Chuck Whittall, Ferrari of Central Florida, with Triarsi Racing passes on track. These are two of the top competitors in the Coppa Shell class 2022. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The Challenge actually started in the United States in 1993 using the 348 model. As the road cars changed over the years, each subsequent model and any EVO derivatives were used in the Challenge: 355, 360, 430, 458 and finally now to the 488.
For the most part IMSA (International Motorsports Association) has been the sanctioning body for the series from the very beginning. The Rules for the series are written by Ferrari and implemented by IMSA (in North America).
The Challenge started in 1993 in North America using the 348 model. A 30th year celebration was held at Daytona Speedway this year. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The Ferrari 360, used in the challenge circa 2000. Martin Raffauf photo.
1995 events used the new model Ferrari F355. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The Ferrari Challenge in North America is run under the auspices of IMSA sanction. Mark Raffauf is the IMSA executive series manager. He has been involved with the challenge since it started in the 1990s. Here at Montreal, he discusses issues with drivers (from left) Brian Kaminsky, Alfred Caiola, and coaches Nic Longhi and Jeff Segal. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The car used in 2022 is the Ferrari 488-Evo. This is in effect a showroom stock 488 with a roll cage and using race tires provided by Pirelli. The car is quite impressive as it has a 3.9- liter twin turbo V8 making 670 HP. The car has been clocked at the Daytona International Speedway at over 190mph. Depending on the circuit a Ferrari Challenge car can generate lap times at or near the current GT3/GTD cars.
The Challenge cars are not permitted to be modified in any way from their Challenge production specifications and are basically street cars with roll cage and race tires. The GT3 version of the 488 has more aerodynamics and larger tires, but the engines are restricted.
The 3.9-liter twin turbo V8 that powers the challenge car. Martin Raffauf photo.
Major Regulations and Specifications of Ferrari Challenge
Minimum weight (Car + Driver) – 1495Kg. (Empty of fuel)
Only official Ferrari Ballast kits and weights can be used to meet minimum
Minimum ride heights must be maintained Front (103mm) and Rear (141mm) with tires at 1.5psi
Engines are production engines that come sealed from the factory and cannot be changed.
Wheels are 9.5×19 front and 12×19 rear
Tires are Spec tires provided by Pirelli and are a fixed compound. There are both slick tires and rain tires.
Suspensions are limited to original factory parts with two selections of springs and shocks
Maximum camber (negative) is fixed at 3.3 degrees rear and 4.4 front (except at some banked tracks where a lower amount of camber is specified).
While the race weekends are focused on the Ferrari Challenge races there is another world- wide series called Corse Clienti. At least once a year in the US, it coincides with the Challenge and consists of owner lapping with older Formula 1 cars, and the whole FXX class of specialty cars.
This is a fully supported Ferrari of Italy event with supplied mechanics, parts, tires etc. for the owners to be able to drive these specialty cars in a non-racing format. These cars would include the FXX classes such as 599 FXX, FXX Evo, FFXK, non- hybrid Formula 1 cars, the 333SP, and occasionally older sports prototype cars one would want to run.
But of course, many are so valuable, they are not run, and sometimes just sit on display. This group overlaps with the Challenge weekend at least once per year in each geographic area (US, Asia, Britain and Europe).
Ferrari 512M chassis 1048 sits on display at the Elkhart Lake Challenge Event in 2021. Driven in period by Mike Parkes, who was quite tall, you can see the bubble in the roof to fit him in the car is still present. Martin Raffauf photo.
The 5.0-liter V12 engine in the 512M. Martin Raffauf photo.
An ex-Kimi Raikonnen 266 F1 car sits in the garages at Indy, waiting to participate in the 2021 Corse Clienti events. Martin Raffauf photo.
An FXX K Evo at Daytona in 2022. These are hybrid cars with over 1000 horsepower. Martin Raffauf Photo.
A 599xx sits in the Indianapolis Garages awaiting a Corse Clienti session in 2021. The 599xx was designed by the F1 team engineers. Only 44 were made between 2009-2012. Martin Raffauf Photo.
A Ferrari 333SP taking some laps at Indy Corse Clienti in 2021. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Under the direction of Director of Motorsport Louis Colmache and Ferrari Challenge series manager, Matt Dusenberry, the Challenge series in the USA has grown in stature in recent years. No longer strictly a “club event”, the actual Challenge series has become much more professional in the racing and operation.
Races are run under IMSA protocols, much of the racing rules being the same as the Professional IMSA WeatherTech Series. The teams are also much more professional than in days gone by. Many of the crew work in IMSA at other events, or the SRO (Stephane Ratel Org). Some are ex- Indy Car mechanics. The level of preparation and competition has picked up markedly in recent years.
Director of Motorsport Ferrari North America, Louis Colmache (Left) and CEO of Ferrari North America, Matteo Torre discuss matters at Watkins Glen 2022. Martin Raffauf Photo.
While providing a substantial amount of track time at each event, Ferrari also provides world class hospitality at each event. The food is provided by their own catering companies and can be compared to a top-class restaurant in an equally special environment.
It is a good balance to the racing, as it allows plenty of support for guests, friends and families of the drivers. In addition, there is always a special social event/ dinner for all participants at every event on the Saturday evening.
Other features of a normal event would also include demo rides in current cars, major new car announcements, and usually track sessions for guests to drive their own Ferrari Street cars around the track.
Race Headquarters in the paddock is the FNA truck. Martin Raffauf Photo.
The Tower suites at Daytona converted into the Ferrari Hospitality area at the April 2022 event. Ferrari does everything with style and panache, as one would expect. Martin Raffauf photo.
The gelato cart at the hospitality even has Ferrari Logos! Martin Raffauf Photo.
A series of racing events with modern-day cars, the Ferrari Challenge reminds one of the days of old IMSA racing. There is camaraderie and cooperation in the paddock. Everyone knows each other.
Many of the drivers are friends and race events are like a mini vacation with wives and families along for the ride. The access to some of the older cars, including Formula One at some events just adds to the aura.
The noticeable attention to detail by Ferrari and their style and panache of execution just add to a fun and great experience. The growth and excitement just continues with each new year and car.
People of the Ferrari Challenge
Professional driver Katherine Legge coaches in the Challenge for both Eileen Bildman and Grey Fauvre. Martin Raffauf photo.
The Ferrari Challenge is a friendly series. Team principal of Scuderia Corsa, Roberto Amorosi (R) and director of logistics and transport for Ferrari, Paulo Gandolphi at Montreal in 2022. Martin Raffauf photo.
Driver Todd Coleman (L) and his coach Aaron Telitz who drives for Lexus in the WeatherTech championship have a debrief after a session at Watkins Glen 2022. Coaches play an integral part in helping the clients improve and move up to the higher groups. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Jerri Walters (aka Bubbles) stands by her Challenge car at Watkins Glen. She has come up from the ranks of Corso Piloti and Club Challenge to drive in the Challenge in 2022. She drives for Ferrari of Vancouver. Martin Raffauf photo.
Lisa Clark, a regular in the series, gets some direction from her coach, Allesandro Balzan (R) at Watkins Glen in 2022. She races with Ferrari of Beverly Hills. She comes from a racing background. Sprint car hall of famer Don Branson was her uncle. Balzan is a former IMSA champion in GT cars. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Coaching is hard work. Here Tristan Vautier monitors his driver, Dan Cornish in turn 1 at Watkins Glen. Vautier drives the Mustang Sampling Cadillac in the WeatherTech series. Martin Raffauf photo.
A special guest at Montreal in 2022. Canadian Challenge driver Marc Muzzo (L), and Head Challenge coach Didier Theys (R) greet Joann Villenueve (Wife of Gilles, Mother of Jacques).Martin Raffauf Photo.
Dave Musial’s 488 was looked after at Watkins Glen by Ashley Fye. Eric Bachelart’s team, Conquest racing of Indianapolis manages cars for several dealerships and does a good job of it, having won several championships in recent years. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Chief mechanic for Dave Musial jr, Peter Luiz, hides from the rain at Montreal. Conditions were terrible, but the car got a 2nd and a 1st in the two races. Musial Jr won the Coppa Shell championship last year and is leading in the Pirelli -Am category this year. This is another one of the cars run by Eric Bachelart for Ferrari of Lake Forest IL. Peter is a former IMSA mechanic and worked for Honda for many years. Martin Raffauf Photo.
Dave Musial of Chicago brings his own AC unit to the races. He drives with Conquest racing and Eric Bachelart. Ferrari of Lake Forest, which is owned by former IMSA racer Rick Mancuso is his dealer. Martin Raffauf Photo.
A common training technique is video study. Here Manny Franco reviews video during a practice session at Circuit of the Americas 2021. Martin Raffauf photo.
Challenge driver, Eileen Dorsey Bildman and head series coach Didier Theys discuss the Indianapolis circuit at the 2021 event.Didier has a lot of experience with Ferrari, having driven the 333sp extensively in period in IMSA, Grand AM and the ISRS (International Sports Racing Series) Martin Raffauf Photo