The Challenge Stradale was designed with a single goal in mind: to improve the performance of the two Ferrari 8-cylinders currently in production (the 360 Modena and the 360 Spider, already hugely successful) by pushing the racing attributes of a road car with well-defined characteristics to new extremes. The transfer of specific solutions developed for the latest generation of Ferrari racing cars, the 360 Challenge and the 360 GT, is very evident, as indeed is the avant-garde technology adopted from the Enzo Ferrari (the layout of the exhaust, for example) and Formula 1 (the electro-hydraulic gearbox and the use of carbon for the first time on an 8-cylinder sports car).

We talked to Engineer Patrizio Moruzzi, Project leader for the 8-cylinder sports car team, about the revolutionary technical aspects of this latest edition to the Ferrari family. Originally from Bologna, Moruzzi has been in charge of the “131 Challenge Strada” project for the last few months. The head of a core team of 12 people, the mechanical engineer concentrated on telling us about the important synergies which saw what is basically a thoroughbred racing car type tested for road use, by focusing on four key areas: aerodynamics, car weight reduction, engine/gearbox, and chassis components.

”The aerodynamic concept of the Challenge Stradale stemmed from the target we set ourselves during the early stages when we were still defining the brief,” explained Moruzzi. “We wanted to increase the vertical load by 50% to obtain better handling on bends compared to the 360 Modena. The tests on the first model in the wind tunnel lead us to revise four specific and quite definitive areas: the front bumper which we extended towards the rear, the sills which were streamlined to increase down force, the addition of a small nolder at the rear which has the same effect as a spoiler, and the inclusion of a double-bottomed exhaust and longitudinal fins to channel the airflow towards the rear for improved stability.”

The Challenge Stradale’s good looks, although impressive, seem to have come about by chance as Moruzzi explains: “Obviously some of the specific final touches allowed us to bring what is very much a racer much closer to the classic Ferrari GT, but that didn’t change our main ambition which was to improve performance so that we would be able to offer our clients a sportier alternative to the already successful 360 Modena’.

The version unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show 2003 has a F1-style paddle shift and offers two gear-change modes controlled by new generation software to cut gear change times even further: “Sport’, fast but smooth, and “Race’, even quicker and more aggressive. With the latter, by disengaging the ASR traction control, it is possible to engage launch control, a system adapted from Formula 1 and already used on the 12-cylinder 575M Maranello.

Many cutting-edge ideas were applied to the 3.6 litre 90° V8 engine and the longitudinal configuration of the gearbox, especially in terms of the design of the intake and exhaust systems. Moruzzi added that “The 110 kg drop in weight to 1180 kg was, however, mostly (94 kg) due to the work done on the chassis, by applying two rules: the elimination of all components unnecessary for a “racing style” coupé and the use of lightweight materials to maintain or even improve the performance of the car.”

In the suspension, the springs are 20% more stiffer than those of the 360 Modena too. Titanium, a material previously used only for engine piston rods, was also adopted for parts of the suspension, including the wheel bolts and damper springs. Another important innovation was the brakes made of CCM (Carbon Composite Material), making them 16% lighter and capable of guaranteeing much shorter braking distances.

Interview with project leader engineer Patrizio Moruzzi