Classified spotlight: Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale


By Ross Jamieson

As the chairman of Ferrari from 1991-2014, Luca di Montezemolo reigned over the Scuderia for each of the 11 Formula 1 titles amassed between ’99 and ’05. Despite his leadership those successes are largely credited to the Schumacher, Brawn, Byrne and Todt axis rather than the flamboyant Italian himself. Since Schumacher and co packed their bags and left for pastures new, the team in red has underachieved when measured against its own high standards. Many believe di Montezemolo himself is responsible, at least in part, for their recent stagnation.

I say ‘recent’ rather than ‘ongoing’ because as of March 29 2015, Ferrari are Grand Prix winners once more. A superb performance by Sebastian Vettel in a car well suited to Sepang’s blistering heat showed a clean pair of heels to the boys from Brackley. Recent cries to peg back Mercedes through rule changes can now be shuffled to the bottom of F1’s to-do list for the immediate future. Although a Mercedes driver is still odds-on for championship success, Ferrari’s winter progress is undeniable and truly impressive. In the SF15-T, the tifosi now have a racing car worth cheering for.

If the effect of his recent influence on the Formula One team is debatable, di Montezemolo’s impact on the road-car division of Maranello is less opaque. During his 23 years as Chairman, revenue growth at Ferrari rose tenfold as a stream of engaging, covetable and exciting motor cars left the factory for dealership forecourts across the globe.

Most recently the motoring press has heaped praise (and awards) onto the 458 Speciale – a stripped out 458 with everything cranked up for maximum enjoyment. It is also the last road going Ferrari launched under di Montezemolo’s leadership. The Speciale is preceded by two other limited-run, mid-engined Ferraris: the 430 Scuderia and the 360 Challenge Stradale. Having recently driven a CS – a Rosso Scuderia version of this Rosso Corsa example from DK Engineering – I can understand the hype surrounding the recent crop of cars to leave the municipality of Modena.

The CS sits low, wheels pulled high into its arches, with a stance that suggests this is not your garden variety 360. It is a full 110kg lighter than the car on which it’s based and the savings are easy to see as you step into the uncarpeted, carbon-clad cockpit. Although the interior design is evidently a decade old, the 360 CS remains a special place to sit.

A dash-mounted plaque reminds you of the marque’s successive F1 titles from ’99 onwards while a glance into your side mirrors reveals the sculpted air intakes that feed the 40-valve, 420bhp V8 positioned directly behind you. Your thumbs fold perfectly over the three-spoke wheel and the tachometer reads all the way to 8500. A large red starter button sits at the base of the transmission tunnel. Sink it into its carbon surrounds and the CS barks into life; an antisocial noise, but deeply enjoyable nonetheless.

On the move the CS feels taught, responsive and well-damped. It doesn’t crash into surfaces, but controls its mass well through compressions and direction changes. The steering is communicative, picking up imperfections and cambers in the tarmac but never diverting the front axle from your chosen trajectory. The cornering balance is sensitive to throttle inputs and a mid-corner down-change will pull the nose of the car towards the apex.

It feels fast too, not modern supercar fast, but still quick enough to force concentration. The sensation of forward progress is supplemented by the angry blare emitted from the quad pipes, which are among the loudest ever fitted to a road going Ferrari. The sheer quantity of noise and the manner by which the engine rips through the final 2500rpm leaves a lasting and very positive impression.

The example listed here was only the seventh CS to roll off Ferrari’s production line. For a time it was put to use as a Ferrari-owned show and demonstration car; it’s even the star of Vikki Butler-Henderson’s Fifth Gear test review and is rumoured to have spent some time with Monaco’s royal family. It has covered 8000 miles since new and, as you’d expect, looks in stunning condition throughout. I particularly like the tan bucket seats although I must admit, I do miss the optional Tricolore stripe.

Purchase this car and you’ll join an exclusive group only 1200 (or thereabouts) owners; their relative rarity has contributed to the cars recent surge in value. However, even at current prices, the driving experience does not disappoint. It’s an enthralling car, theatrical and rewarding in equal measure, and an enjoyable way to celebrate Ferrari’s return to Grand Prix form.

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