One of Ferrari’s greatest strengths has always been its focus on fostering close relations with its clients by attempting to meet as many of their needs as possible. Particularly in the case of exclusive products like sports cars, the relationship between supplier and purchaser has to be carefully nurtured each and every day. Attentiveness and the ability to listen are vital factors as is a willingness to innovate and create initiatives that mirror clients’ dreams and ambitions.
n 1991, Ferrari realised there was a growing interest amongst owners in using their cars on the track. Just a year later, the idea took shape of creating a high-level single-make championship. Contact was made with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to guarantee the highest standards of safety would be met. Ferrari also entered into talks with some of Italy and Europe’s finest and most spectacularly beautiful circuits to allow clients to compete on suitably atmospheric tracks. From the very earliest stage of the rule drafting process, it was decided to allow only official Ferrari dealerships to compete to guarantee absolute transparency in performance terms. The Prancing Horse officially announced the launch of the Ferrari Challenge at Mugello in the autumn of 1992. It would span an Italian and a European series, each comprising six rounds of which the final one would be shared. On that same day, Ferrari also unveiled the TB and TS versions of the 348 Challenge, the car chosen for the series. In line with the tradition of allowing road cars to be converted into racing versions, the 348 was equipped with a special kit which, once removed, returned the car to its original configuration. The kit comprised a roll cage, six-point safety harnesses, 18” magnesium wheels, a fire extinguisher, front and rear tow hooks, and an electric circuit breaker. The 348 Challenge’s engine unleashed 320 horses, 20 or so more than the road version. The brakes too were boosted.
The Italian series was first to debut with its maiden round getting underway at Monza on March 28. The first ever Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli race was won by Paolo Rossi in car no. 5, an almost fluorescent 348. Race 2 was won by Roberto Ragazzi who went on to become the Ferrari Challenge’s first champion at the end of the season. The first round of the European series, on the other hand, took place at Magny-Cours, just a week later and both races were dominated by Bernd Hahne, brother of 1970s Formula 1 driver, Hubert. The German also won the first European title and triumphed at the Finalissima at Mugello.
The Ferrari single-make championship proved such an instant international success that it was decided to launch a North American series in 1994. Celebrities of the likes of singer Eros Ramazzotti and sports personalities such as skier Kristian Ghedina frequently appear in the Italian and European series. The Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli continues to go from strength to strength with three continental series and around 150 cars doing battle on the world’s most beautiful circuits each year. In all, over 1,000 drivers have competed in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli since 1993, many of whom have gone on to excel in high-profile GT championships, signalling the Ferrari series as a hothouse for talented closed-wheel drivers.