This year’s Finali Mondiali at Mugello in the Tuscan hills eclipsed expectations. A record-breaking 105 entries were logged in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli alone, and the racing was thrilling.
So, too, was the sight of an F60 F1 car, Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel, and two SF70-Hs, driven by Antonio Fuoco and Antonio Giovinazzi. Their Le Mans compadres James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina thrilled the crowd with driver changes and simulated pit stops in their Le Mans-winning 499Ps.
Four months after that epic performance in the Centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a version of that instant history-maker is set to be made available to Ferrari’s most select clients. Called 499P Modificata, it’s a trail-blazer for a new category of customer track car, called Sport Prototipi Clienti, which will take its place alongside the XX and F1 Clienti programmes from 2024.
As the 499P Modificata is deemed ‘non-competitive’, it’s liberated from the WEC’s regulatory straitjacket. A car that was already bristling with innovation becomes even more technically fascinating. Its hybrid powertrain uses a reworked version of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine as seen in the 296 GT3, combined with an electric motor on the front axle.
The e-motor is now more powerful and busier. Where the FIA-WEC rules state that electric assistance on the front axle can only come into play at speeds above 190 km/h, this new version can deploy all its energy from standstill. Ferrari’s engineers have optimised the Modificata’s all-wheel drive capability in torque distribution between the front and rear axles, for even greater response and driveability. New traction control and start-assist logic have been developed to ensure that its dynamic bandwidth and behaviour are accessible whatever the track and conditions. It’s also equipped with specially developed Pirelli tyres, a unique ‘slick’ that heats up faster, degrades less and maximises feedback.
The new car additionally features a ‘Push to Pass’ system activated using a button on the back of the steering wheel. This makes an additional 163 cv available for up to seven seconds per lap, giving the driver access to a total power output of 870 cv. (WEC’s ‘balance of performance’ rules limit total output to 670 cv.)
The new 296 Challenge is a more visible manifesto for Maranello’s client racing activities. The Ferrari Challenge is the longest-running single-make championship in global motorsport, nine generations of Ferrari race car having entertained clients and fans since 1993. Non-professional they may be, but these are talented competitors – a reality reflected in the new 296 Challenge whose performance, aerodynamics, consistency and repeatability have all been optimised.
This is the first Challenge car to run a V6 engine, although the hybrid element of the award-winning 296 powertrain has been removed to reduce weight, the resulting 700 cv and 234 cv/litre setting a record for specific power output in this segment. There’s also a reworked exhaust system, increased turbo boost pressure, and a new compressor and starter motor. There’s been a significant step forward in the new car’s braking set-up, the introduction of CCM-R PLUS another world-first. New manufacturing techniques improve the discs’ durability and their thermal properties, in both building temperature quickly and in dissipating it.
The new car’s aerodynamics package has been designed to sharpen responses. Although it can generate 870 kg of downforce (at 250 km/h) with that impressive adjustable rear wing in its most aggressive set-up, the 296 Challenge’s overall aero balance has been conceived to maximise driver confidence. Pitch, yaw and roll are all minimised thanks to Ferrari’s extraordinary aerodynamics expertise.
Options include a passenger seat, for driver coaching or to entertain a friend.