Derived from the road-going Ferrari 296 GTB, the new Ferrari 296 Challenge was unveiled right before the 2023 Finali Mondiali, the celebration of the end of the Corse Clienti season.
Slotting in for the soon-to-be-retired Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo, the new car ships with significant upgrades over the latter, edging closer to the ferocious 296 GT3 and promising an exciting 2024 season. The 296 Challenge, the ninth model in the single-make series, follows in the tire tracks of an illustrious lineup of predecessors, including the 348 Challenge, the F355 Challenge, and the 458 Challenge Evo.
Unlike its road-going counterpart, the 296 Challenge comes with a purely Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), ditching the road car's hybrid setup and joining the GT3 296 in that regard. As a result, the new car comes in slightly less potent than the road-going version, with 700cv compared to 830cv.
The engine is a seemingly familiar 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 powertrain that produces 700 cv (690hp) and 740 Neuton-meters of torque. What is new, however, is the debut of the 120-degree V6, along with its 234 horsepower per liter, setting a new power benchmark.
Design-wise, the 296 Challenge doesn't try to hide its GTB roots, porting over the latter's design and adding over a few racing bits and pieces. Among the notable changes are the huge air vents on the hood and a slightly more curved/aggressive front splitter.
The story is quite similar at the back, where a massive wing, dual exhaust pipes flanking the Pracing Horse logo, simplified taillights, and more pronounced side skirts are the major differentiators. The side profile of the car is dominated by the custom-made Pirelli 19 inch tires and new CCM-R PLUS brake discs.
Being a race car, aerodynamic optimizations naturally take center stage. Ferrari notes that the new car's aerodynamic package generates over 870 kilograms of downforce at 155 mph (250 km/h), a new record for a race car in the company's single-make series, and an 18% increase in downforce compared to the 488 Challenge Evo.
The 296 Challenges interior amalgamates Ferrari's experience from both the single-make series and GT racing. The 488 Challenge Evo's steering wheel is maintained, albeit with ad hoc improvements. The engine rev LED bar has moved from the steering wheel to the digital instrument display, while a new control layout on the central tunnel houses the most frequently used controls. The 296 GT3's seat makes an appearance here, too, while a "thoroughly" engineered roll cage is added to meet FIA racing standards.
Established for Ferrari's most devoted clientele, the Ferrari Challenge series started in 1993 as a platform for owners of the 348 Challenge to race their prized possessions. The series then expanded to North America in 1994 and later to the UK and Japan. The best-performing drivers are then brought together for the annual World Finals event or the Finali Mondiali in Italian. The new 296 Challenge will likely add a spark to the 2024 season.