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Ready for the Challenge

Few drivers know the Ferrari Challenge Series – now in its 31st year – as well as Dutchman Fons Scheltema
Words Giulio Masperi - Photographs Andrea Frazzetta

Almost since his Challenge beginnings, Fons Scheltema has customised his cars with a striking front-end livery that sports a set of jagged shark teeth, making him impossible to miss when out on the track. Over the years it has become an essential part of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli, symbolically striking fear into the competition. “It’s my hallmark,” begins the Dutch driver, who this year celebrates his nineteenth season as a Challenge racer.

“I’ve been coming to this paddock for a long time,” he nods. “Every year I meet old friends and make new acquaintances with whom I have much to discuss and share. For me, it’s like family.”

Watch an exclusive video on Fons Scheltema, the 19-year Ferrari Challenge Series veteran with the shark-teeth car

It is a family that Scheltema has seen grow over nearly two decades, in line with the technical and organisational evolution of the racing series. A period in which six racing models, based on their sister road-going versions, have between them made history on some of Europe’s most famous racetracks, including the likes of Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Le Mans, Imola, and Mugello.

“When I debuted in 2005, I did it in a Ferrari 360 Challenge,” he recalls. “That’s how I entered racing and motorsport, a world in which I had little experience.”

In subsequent years he also took the wheel of the F430 Challenge, the 458 Challenge and the 488 Challenge, the latter also in its Evo versions. His love of racing grew out of a fascination with a road car that holds a special place in the history of the Prancing Horse.

The Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo, with its ‘shark teeth’, the Dutch pilota’s hallmark, painted on the front end. “It strikes fear into the other racers,” he jokes

“One day, I was in a hotel, and I heard a fantastic sound coming from somewhere off in the distance,” he remembers. “Then suddenly a car came into view that made my jaw drop, because of its original lines, and the kind of sophisticated and sporty appearance that I’d never seen before. It was the F40. I fell in love with it and, after many years dedicated to my work, I decided to make myself a present of an F40 in my garage.”

He first joined the Ferrari Challenge back in 2005, with his first podium coming at Monza in the first round of the 2007 season. He recalls: “At the ‘Italian Temple of Speed’ when it was time to walk to the podium, suspended over the track, I saw photos of great champions such as Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher, on the walls. I was able to add my own name to that roll of honour.”

Left to right: Scheltema at Misano for the second round of the 2023 Ferrari Challenge Europe series in April, the team's paddock, Scheltema at the Kessel Racing team’s box

We can sum up Scheltema’s story in a few statistics: 267 starts; 19 years without missing a single European series race; two trophies won, the Coppa Gentleman in the Coppa Shell category in 2012 and the Ferrari Challenge Europe in 2014, in the 458 Challenge and the 458 Challenge Evo, respectively.

With the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli now into its 31st season, Scheltema makes no secret of his own ambitions: “The dream? For every racer, it is the desire to win.”

Over the years, the championship has evolved, offering customers new opportunities. The Italian and European series kicked off in 1993 and featured the Ferrari 348 Challenge, a model followed by the F355 Challenge, the only two cars that Scheltema has not driven on the track. “Fons and the shark’s mouth on his Ferrari are part of our history,” says Antonello Coletta, Head of Attivit Sportive GT at Ferrari.

Scheltema celebrating a successful track performance in 2015

“Such a long relationship is a wonderful testimony to the spirit of our series, based on the pleasure of being part of the Ferrari family.” More widely, he adds: “The European and American continental series are doing very well, as is the national one in Japan, launched this year.

"After a few tricky seasons, the Ferrari Challenge UK is back in the groove. In such a fast-evolving racing world, we can be sure that every possible innovation will be carefully considered so that we can continue to represent excellence at an international level.”