It was the opening event of the season for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and one of the many celebrations Ferrari will have this year for its 70th anniversary. The Ferrari Challenge is the oldest single make racing series around, and the weekend would be the North American debut of the 488 Challenge cars around the 11 turn 2.238 mile road course.
Ferrari North America Organized an Epic Display of Vintage Ferraris
The Ferrari Challenge is more than just a single make racing spectacle. It’s also a gathering of and for Ferrari owners, enthusiasts and fanboys with a car corral of Maranello’s finest. Ferrari North America additionally organizes a display of vintage Ferrari’s of museum quality, yet most of them are driving on normal roads by their passionate owners.
It was a relaxed weekend with Monterey breezes keeping the crowd cool and the action on-track and in the car corrals sizzling. The weekend saw the cars reach top speeds of 140mph accross four racing classes, Trofeo Pirelli, Trofeo Pirelli AM, the Coppa Shell and the 458 EVO cars
Pirelli brought almost a 1000 tires for Ferrari Challenge racers. The first two sets are free then each invidual tire is $650-700!
As if this wasn't enough, the weekend promised a special guest. The track was mum on who this guest might be, though we speculated a famous driver, or someone else with a special place in Ferrari history. Alas, it was none of those, but rather actor Michael Fassbender, competing for the first time in the Ferrari Challenge. Fassbender, known for his acting roles is also a a life long Ferrari and F1 fan. In 2013 he narrated the Formula 1 documentary "1" (Trailer). The Ferrari Challenge is run in three divisions– Europe, Asia, and North America. Fassbender will compete in full season of the North American Ferrari Challenge series.
It was a wonderful opening of the 2017 season at Laguna Seca and if this event is an indication it only gets better from here! (Full Race Results after the Gallery)
(provided by Ferrari of North America)
Trofeo Pirelli AM. In Trofeo Pirelli AM Marc Muzzo of Ferrari of Ontario made good on his pole position to take the checkered flag on Sunday in the first race of the day. A clean, but contested start provided plenty of drama as the field of 488 Challenge cars streamed through the fast Turn 1 and into the heavy braking for the Andretti Hairpin. Just behind Marc, Chris Cagnazzi of Ferrari of Long Island applied heavy pressure to Jean-Claude Saada of Boardwalk Ferrari. Saada, however, had an answer and pumped in the fastest lap of the race thus far, a 1:29.2 on lap 7.
Coppa Shell. In Coppa Shell, Karl Williams took off from pole position in his Scuderia Corsa prepared 488 Challenge car and did not look back. A caution on lap 9 closed the field back together, but Karl had an answer, even as Barry Zekelman of Ferrari of Ontario began to close the gap towards the end of the race. Rookie Robert Picerne was able to capture the Gentleman’s Trophy.
Trofeo Pirelli. High drama struck the Trofeo Pirelli class in their second race of the weekend when pole-sitter Cooper MacNeil of Ferrari of Silicon Valley and second place driver Wei Lu (Ferrari of Vancouver) touched and spun in the middle of the Andretti Hairpin. Drivers dodged to either side of the two cars as they faced the wrong direction and were forced to wait for the field to pass. Wei was able to continue in his Ferrari of Vancouver prepared 488 Challenge car in 21st position, but Cooper was out. Out of the chaos, Enzo Potolicchio, Peter Ludwig and Ricardo Perez emerged in first, second and third respectively in the Trofeo Pirelli class.
Trofeo Pirelli 458 EVO. Fortunately, the incident did not cause too much chaos in the Trofeo Pirelli 458 EVO class, which started behind the Trofeo Pirelli class. Joseph Rubbo maintained his qualifying advantage after Turn 1. John Boyd of Ferrari of Denver and Naveen Rao of Ferrari of San Diego enjoyed an intense battle in the first few laps for second position. However, heartbreak soon followed for Naveen who pulled to the side of the track on lap 5 and triggered a full course caution period. This, however, played right into the hands of Wei Lu who had overtaken most of the 458 EVO class by then and used the caution to close up to the back of the Trofeo Pirelli 488 class competitors.
Final laps. Peter Ludwig survived sustained pressure from Ricardo Perez to take the victory after a late time penalty was applied to Enzo Potolicchio and fell to ninth position, moving Martin Fuentes onto the podium. In the Trofeo Pirelli 458 EVO class, Rubbo built and maintained a strong gap and stayed out of the intense battle for second between Trevor Baek and Oscar Paredes-Arroyo with James Walker close behind. A last lap collision brought out caution flags, but not before James had sneaked past Oscar for the final position on the podium. Lisa Clark of Ferrari of Beverly Hills took the Ladies Cup after another close-fought race with Debra Palermo. The next North American round of the Ferrari Challenge will take place on June 11th in Montreal where Challenge will support the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.