Ferrari Challenge 2016: Rain be Damned!!!
The Ferrari Challenge is a fixture on The Loud Pedal's event calendar. It's equal parts great racing weekend and candy store. If you like (or love) Maranello's finest, this is the event for you...and at $20 a day, probably the best automotive value per dollar on the face of the earth! Mother Nature threw a few curve balls over the span of the three day event, delivering cold temperatures and even a good bit of rain, but this mattered not...racing always prevails.
Going into the weekend, we were a little afraid that the weather might keep the action and the crowds down, but overall, everyone was in good spirits and willing to share and race their spectacular machines for a decent sized audience. The rain had even helped Sonoma Raceway turn green, something not seen there in several years. We got a little wet, but compared to awesomeness of being around that many Ferraris, we didn't really notice. As per usual, the infield/paddock area was chock-full of "street cars"...a field alone worthy of the price of admission. There were 458s-a-plenty, several 308s, 360s, 430s and even a matching set of (appropriately) red 330s in all their glory and gleaming chrome. If that weren't enough, there were also 2 LaFerraris that slogged through the rain & drizzle picking up lots of crusty road dirt along the way! No doubt these masterpieces of modern science spend a bit of time in a garage, but on this occasion, they came to the event through the same rainy mess we came through! It just makes a car-type-person feel good to know that these things get used (as we all conjecture we would if we had one). And not only did these thoroughbreds come in on their own power, but most of them did demo laps on the track while it was raining and with a significant amount of water still on the track.
As if that wasn't enough hardware, the front of the Ferrari Challenge VIP tent featured a stunning array of Maranello's finest. A 288 GTO, a $3 million Pininfarina styled Ferrari "Sergio", a gorgeous blue 275, a two tone 1957 410 Superamerica (Series II) and our favorite, a ferocious, 1 of 1, 1996 F50GT #001 with a Michael Schumacher autograph on the dash. The estimated value of this F50 is in the $5-6 million range though given its history and connection to Schumacher is, in our minds, priceless. (A car made twenty years ago with a 4.7 liter V12 engine that delivered 750hp with 519Nm of torque that did 0-60MPH in just 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 235mph. Those are modern hypercar numbers in a twenty year old package. Our understanding is that the car is currently part of a private collection belonging to Ferrari of Silicon Valley.)
We found ourselves going back to that spread several times throughout the day to stare and drool at the impossibly rare lineup. Much to our disbelief, these cars were left out in the rain for all to enjoy (THANK YOU FERRARI CHALLENGE AND CAR OWNERS!!!)
The road going cars were not the only attraction as the Ferrari Challenge weekend features on-track action. The Ferrari Challenge is a spec racing series, and this year features a massive grid of 34 458 Challenge Evos broken up into three classes, Tofeo Pirelli, Pirelli AM and Coppa Shell. The 458 Challenge uses the same engine of the street 458 the 570hp V8 but has a special tuned racing exhaust and different gear ratios. The Challenge is broken up over two 30 minute races where the results of race 1 determine the grid of race 2. With only 35 minutes per race, this is not a methodical search for pace, but rather a pedal to floor, white knuckled Apex dive-bomb-fest that starts at the drop of the green flag to the waving of the checkered. Thirty four drivers would take to the track and reigning Ferrari Challenge North American champion Emmunuel Anassis of Ferrari Quebec would continue his season with another win on Saturday in race 1. Race 2 would see Anassis take second place adding up to a pretty successful weekend.
For $20, we know of no other opportunity to see a paddock jam packed with beautiful Italian art, and on-track action that provides pure racing pleasure. If you are an old pro then you will understand the attraction of an event like this. If you are unsure whether racing/car culture is for you then we think the Ferrari Challenge is good opening event to experience at Sonoma Raceway.