▶ Revealed at Finali Mondiali
▶ 296 Challenge replaces the 488 Evo
▶ Two seconds a lap faster around Mugello
This is the Ferrari 296 Challenge, the latest weapon of choice for Maranello’s global one-make series. It’ll be raced in the four FIA-homologated Ferrari Challenge championships (North America, Europe, UK and Japan) and will take over from the 488 Challenge Evo.
Ferrari engineers have borrowed from Maranello’s GT3 program to add power and downforce, but they’ve also aimed to give the new Challenge more usable performance than ever before. Here’s everything you need to know about the new 296 Challenge.
It looks great!
It does, doesn’t it – but that’s probably because the 296 GTB is already the prettiest Ferrari you can buy for the road. For Ferrari engineers, making the 296 the latest Challenge car was an obvious choice; it has an agile, short wheelbase, a compact V6-engine (the hybrid element hasn’t made it to the Challenge car) and it’s unmistakably a Ferrari, too.
Look at the aero!
The 296 Challenge buries the roadcar in a significant amount of aero inspired by the GT3 program; there’s a huge front splitter across the front (that’s actually bigger than the GT3’s) and there are also several features on the side of the car to coax air around. What’s more, the 296 Challenge features an F1-derived S-duct integrated into the front bonnet, which the standard car doesn’t have. That’s partly because of the removal of the hybrid system – but we’ll get to that later.
The 296 Challenge will primarily be run by gentleman drivers so Ferrari’s technical team has focused on making it fast – but also reliable and predictable for amateur drivers. To that end, the car has 18% more downforce (now 870kg at 250kmh) than the outgoing car, but it’s less peaky and more intuitive.
The 296’s S-duct isn’t just there for show; it’s designed to help the car generate more downforce from its reshaped floor. The overall result? The new 296 Challenge is 2.0 seconds a lap faster at the Mugello track than the 488.
No hybrid power
Maranello has ditched the hybrid system for maintenance and lightness reasons – but it’s increased the power output of the V6 by using GT3-derived tech. Power is now up to 690bhp at 7500rpm, and that equates to 231bhp-per-litre. Torque in the new powertrain is 546 ft lbs.
Removing the hybrid system has brought significant weight savings over the road car; so the 296 GTB weighs 1470kg, while the Challenge is just 1330kg. Most of that is from the hybrid system’s removal, the rest from new plastic and aluminium parts (rather than carbonfibre ones) and a brake system that’s 3kg lighter.
Updating the brakes
Ferrari engineers have used redesigned carbon fibres in the new Challenge’s brake discs, and it means the discs last three times longer than before – along with a doubling of the brake pad life. Pirelli has also worked with Ferrari to develop a tyre that’s predictable and that degrades at a slower, more understandable rate.
When will it race?
The 296 Challenge will replace the current 488 Evo in the North American and European championships in 2024, and will be introduced to the Japanese and UK championships the year after.