“Gentlemen, start your engines!” Yes, while we’ve heard that line often enough, never has it seemed quite so appropriate as at The Ferrari 458 Challenge. Each race in the series is geared toward “Ferrari owners and gentlemen drivers who are looking to hone their skills in production-based, purpose-built Ferrari racers in a competitive yet friendly environment,” per the official releases. But once you’re there, at the track, those official words translate into a completely wonderful day for anyone who has ever turned a head to see a Ferrari go by—in a word, everyone.
Drivers, technicians, car collectors, owners, and die-hard fans linger easily through the automobile paddocks to get up close and personal to the cars and their drivers. So friendly is the atmosphere that when that brilliant yellow Ferrari lures you over, you are welcomed. No guards stand by, arms crossed. This field of thoroughbred racers is embraced in the pristine hills of the park and infused with the shared appreciation and respect for the machine and the technology it so beautifully displays.
The color of the day: red. And not just any red, but the rich, glossy, molten red that is signature to Ferrari. On the racers, the red is so juicy it looks like one touch would make it pop. The vibrant hue is on the waving banners, emblazoned on t-shirts and hats of pit crews and fans, poured over the mammoth tractor trailers that haul the gear from locations as far as Florida, California, and Canada, and, of course, on a few choice racing cars at Lime Rock. These cars, whether fired up in attention-calling red, yellow, orange or any other pure color, equally ooze the promise of speed and strength even before ignition; these are flirty, heavenly beasts.
So let the fun begin. As the cars line up and head for the track, their burly engines muffle a throaty, hungry roar, and the air practically crackles with anticipation. Once the cars hit the track, these unapologetically flashy machines do what they do best: fly down the straightaways and command every swerve of the curvaceous and playful Lime Rock track in the Ferrari Challenge.
Started in 1993, The Ferrari Challenge series allows Ferrari owners to socialize and compete on some of the world’s greatest racetracks. It arrived in North America in 1994 with a full season of races and is the longest-running series of its type on the continent. “The Challenge started in 1993 for the then-current Ferrari 348. As newer mid/rear V8 models were announced—the 355, 360 and F430—special Challenge versions of these cars were included in the series. As of 2011, the 458 Challenge, the newest special racer created just for the series, has filled the grids. The 2012 season will only include the 458 Challenge,” officials note.
These racing Ferraris have the same appearance and engine as their road-going cousins; in fact, all engines are stock and even sealed so that winning or losing is about the driver The Ferrari Challenge is organized by Ferrari North America and its authorized dealers, many of whom have formed racing teams for the series.
Marco Mattiacci, CEO of Ferrari North America, Inc., was on hand and greeted the teams with a voice yet rich with the accent of his homeland—he was born in Rome, Italy. Mattiacci has enjoyed a career in luxury brands Ferrari, Maserati and Jaguar—names that thrive on exclusivity and an image he carries effortlessly.
As for a trip to Lime Rock, especially for The Ferrari Challenge, it’s a simple as what to do when the light turns green: Go! You’ll enjoy a gorgeous drive up from Fairfield County through Litchfield. It’s utterly pristine, as is the park. You can tell the site was scrutinized. Maybe it is the variations of green grasses and shrubs and artfully placed trees that contributes whole and in part to the complete experience. It’s not unlike the way one appreciates a Ferrari, from any angle, from any distance, and with every perfect detail. That’s why it always turns so many heads and leaves even gentlemen momentarily speechless.
For more, head to ferrarichallenge.com.