After the summer break of over a month, the Asia Pacific series of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli was back in action at the Sepang circuit for the fourth round. The Malaysian event is synonymous with heat and above all humidity: in no other race on the calendar do these factors feature so heavily, affecting the cars, the drivers and also the crew that supports them, as they tackle a truly unique challenge on a very demanding track.
Friday was given over to qualifying, while today, twenty-eight 458 Challenge cars that entered took to the track for this weekend’s races: coming out on top in the first race, in the Trofeo Pirelli category was Philippe Prette (Italy), who crossed the line ahead of Pasin Lathouras (Thailand) and Philip Ma (China, Hong Kong). In the Coppa Shell, victory went to Francis Hideki Onda (Japan), followed home by Gregory Teo (Singapore) and Eric Cheung (Canada). The second race ended in a win for Pasin Lathouras (Thailand) with Philippe Prette (Italy) and Motoaki Ishikawa (Japan) second and third respectively for Trofeo Pirelli category, after running competitively throughout the race. In the Coppa Shell, the top step of the podium went to Jacky Yeung (China, Hong Kong), who beat Eric Cheung (Canada) and Alex Au (China, Hong Kong) to the chequered flag.
It was a busy weekend at Sepang and apart from the Ferrari Challenge races, many spectators were also treated to the very interesting Merdeka Millenium 12 hours Endurance, the most important endurance race to take place in Asia. Another exciting weekend is in prospect when the next round of the Asia Pacific series of the Ferrari one-make championship runs as a support event to the fifth running of the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix on 23 September.
The NAZA Racing Team made a returned to the arena of motorsports last year after a long hiatus and emerged victorious, landing 2nd position on the podium in the Coppa Shell category in the first ever Ferrari 458 Challenge Asia Pacific held in Malaysia.
Piloted by veteran driver from Italy, Angelo Negro, the NAZA Racing Team’s Ferrari 458 Challenge spotting the No. 48 was the only Malaysian team this season to take part in the challenge, competing with 11 other teams from Italy, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore in the Coppa Shell classification.
This mid-rear V8 berlinetta is derived from the 458 Italia and is the fifth model used by Ferrari in its single-series racing programme.
The direct injection 4499 cc V8 remains strictly in production tune, with an output of 570 hp at 9,000 rpm. That said, modifications have been made to the gear ratios and calibration of its dual-clutch F1 gearbox to guarantee higher torque at lower revs. The 458 Challenge is also equipped with the E-Diff electronic differential already employed on the road-going version, a first for Ferrari’s track-only cars.
Significant work has also gone into cutting the car’s weight. This focused on both the exterior and interior with Ferrari’s engineers concentrating in particular on reducing the thickness of the bodyshell panels and on using lightweight materials, such as carbon-fibre as well as polycarbonate for the front and rear windscreens and side windows.
The new 458 Challenge also has a specific suspension set-up with steel uniball joints, stiffer springs, single-rate alloy dampers, centre-nut 19” forged rims, larger dimension Pirelli slicks and a ride height lowered by 50mm all round. It is also equipped with the new generation Brembo CCM2 brakes integrated with the latest ABS system which debuted on the 599XX, Ferrari’s extreme experimental laboratory car.
Another first for a Ferrari Challenge model is the adoption of the F1-Trac traction control system, the most sophisticated of its kind. Developed in-house by Ferrari, the F1-Trac system constantly monitors levels of grip for maximum high-performance road-holding. Two specific track-biased calibrations have been developed for this application, with control logics and strategies derived from Ferrari’s extensive racing experience in the F1 and GT championships. The F1-Trac is completely integrated with the E-Diff to guarantee maximum stability and acceleration both into and out of corners.
The ABS/EBD, F1-Trac and E-Diff calibration settings are selected via the manettino on the steering wheel, the first time this solution has been adopted on a model developed for the Ferrari Challenge series. The driver has a choice of three configurations: OFF position (traction control deactivated), position 1 and position 2. The latter two settings have progressively higher levels of control system intervention and are selected in accordance with grip conditions on the track.
In the course of the intensive development sessions involved in honing the 458 Challenge for the track, the engineers also managed to improve the car’s lap time at Fiorano by two seconds over that of its predecessor, resulting in a new record of just 1’16.5”. Equally impressive is the amount of lateral grip the new car generates – up to 1.6G.
words & pix: Naza Italia