An adventure started 18 years ago in Monza
Who we are and who we were. Who we were in winter 1992, when someone decided for those with red passion in their garages that it was time for Ferrari to supply clients not only with cars of exceptional performance, but also give them the possibility to challenge other clients with the same passion for the Prancing Horse. The owners and their desire to race: based on this, in 1993 the Challenge was born. The single-marque Championship with the Ferrari 348, in the TB and TS version, as its main protagonist. The car, Berlinetta and Spider, was presented in the same year and planned to be used on race tracks as well as on roads. 8-cylinder V 90° engine, single suspension, double wishbones, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorber with stabilization bar; total displacement 3404.70 cm3, capacity 235 kW (320 bhp) at 7,200 rpm: these are some characteristics of this model, used in the first season of the Challenge.
The owners and their desire to race: based on this, in 1993 the Challenge was born. The single-marque Championship with the Ferrari 348, in the TB and TS version, as its main protagonist. The car, Berlinetta and Spider, was presented in the same year and planned to be used on race tracks as well as on roads. 8-cylinder V 90° engine, single suspension, double wishbones, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorber with stabilization bar; total displacement 3404.70 cm3, capacity 235 kW (320 bhp) at 7,200 rpm: these are some characteristics of this model, used in the first season of the Challenge.
One of the strong points of this Championship was its simple organisation. To take part in the Challenge races the car had to be fitted with a rollbar, slicks and a safety kit. And obviously the desire to race the 348’s 320 bhp on the most beautiful Italian and European race tracks. The 8-cylinder engine was sealed and the only parts, which could be modified, were the suspension and the gear ratio.
Ferrari re-entered the world of competitions for gentlemen drivers with cautious optimism, studying the Championship’s organisation in every detail. In July 1992 the new adventure’s project was ready with two racing series. The Italian with five races - Monza, Vallelunga, Misano, Mugello and Imola - and the European series held at the tracks of Paul Ricard, at the Nürburgring, Zandvoort, Salzburg and Dijon.
Those were some of the aspects regarding the regulations of this new racing series: to drive such a high-performing car the drivers needed a type B driving license and the CSAI decided to set up a special driving course for the 348. The race was then held over a set number of laps (later on, until today, the races have been held over a set time); there were three classifications for each race: the overall classification, one for amateurs and one for Under 25. The drivers were not allowed to be professionals, but had to be gentlemen drivers. The technical verifications and the race directors, with continuity for competence and equity, completed the panorama of a completely new Championship, which was already efficient and created a spirit of complicity and partnership beyond the aspects of motorsport.
At the office in Maranello, where everybody in charge always believed in the Ferrari Challenge, people worked relentlessly: setting up the regulations, negotiating with companies regarding the necessary supplies for the drivers such as tyres and spare parts, rollbars and everything connected to the logistics and the construction of the first hospitality areas. Ferrari was immediately supported by Pirelli regarding the supply of slicks and wets. Usually a 348 needed three sets of tyres for one race and Pirelli was immediately available for assistance at the tracks. Meanwhile OMP was busy planning a rollbar on four plates, which could be detached after the race, with an innovative solution, creating an even more versatile car, simplifying the mechanics’ work, busy fitting the cars with the right components for the race.
The mechanics are another great resource of the Challenge. The men came from the dealerships workshops, supporting the drivers at the tracks. Because the mechanics came directly from the Ferrari dealerships, they were completely familiar with the cars. With their experience they were even able to work on the suspensions modifying them from track to track, usually staying at the box until late at night.
Monza, 28 March 1993: on a sunny day in spring the engines were started for the very first race in the Challenge Championship for the Italian series. The paddock was crowded with the drivers’ families, the mechanics, the dealers, the sponsors and the people from Ferrari, who finally saw their project live on the track, together with Ferrari enthusiasts, who, during the week, were hard working professionals with a passion for motorsport, which was the reason of this race.
After nine laps the first run was won by Roberto Ragazzi in a time of 19'34''958, while the second run was won by Cutrera in a time of 19'41''458. The overall classification was won by Paolo Rossi with 18 laps and a time of 39'27''358, followed by Castellaneta and Buhrer: the first podium in the new racing series.
In the first year the Challenge united 16 cars in the Italian and 20 cars in the European series, while the Championship was followed with interest also by other car manufacturers, even in the United States, leading immediately to new Championships. Already in the year 1993 a race with the Ferrari 348 Challenge was held in the USA. In the following year a Championship with 50 cars was organised. In 1994 the Championship was expanded and divided: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Italy and USA with a total of 120 participating cars. In 1995-96 the Japanese, the Far East and the Venezuelan series were started with a total of 200 cars.
Everything started here in Monza, on the circuit where every year, except in 2002, the F355 Challenge, the 360 Modena and the 430 Challenge excited enthusiasts from all over the world: many different models and numerous passionate drivers under the sign of the Prancing Horse. Here, after 19 years and with a new car with 570 bhp – the 458 Challenge – the 2011 Italian and European Challenge Championship is about to start.