By Robert Farago
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When Luca Di Montezemolo took the reins at Ferrari in 1992, he declared an end to the marque’s tradition of building the world’s fastest hair shirts. Luca’s Ferraris would go like hell and provide practicality: effective climate control, power-assisted steering, robust mechanicals, dependable electronics, and room for two golf bags!
The 360 Modena was the first model to embody this new ethos. It may not possess the ergonomics or build quality of a German machine, but it’s close enough for rock and roll. Or is it? While Modena owners appreciate their cars’ civilized road manners, more than a few Ferraristi have voiced their desire for something a little less Genesis, a little more Sex Pistols. Ferrari responded with the 2004 Challenge Stradale, a stripped-down, race-ready machine. The 360 Modena’s base price is $150,060, and the Challenge Stradale is expected to sell for even more, but the new Ferrari has track-day enthusiasts reaching for their wallets. As of early summer, 250 Stradales had been sold in the United States; owners should expect delivery this winter.
The Challenge Stradale is based on the race-modified 360 Modenas driven in the Ferrari Challenge international championships and the FIA GT races. The Stradale is not a street-legal version of the Challenge car, nor is it a gussied-up, slightly tweaked version of the Modena. It is a 360 red in tooth and claw, designed for drivers happy to sacrifice creature comforts for unadulterated thrills.
Like the racing Modenas, the Stradale derives its character from what you don’t get: a radio, carpets, leather, trim. While the 2,822-pound car—242 pounds lighter than the Modena—comes with air-conditioning and power windows, anything not strictly related to going fast has been sucked out in a flattering version of automotive liposuction.
The weight-loss program continues with carbon fiber racing seats and a new chin spoiler, enabling the Stradale to improve upon the 360’s already impressive power-to-weight ratio. The 425-hp Stradale, which sports Formula One–style paddle shifters, scoots from zero to 62 in 4.1 seconds, peaking at 186 mph.
Anthony Cheshire, coordinator of Club Fiorano, a private British organization that holds track days for Ferrari owners, has driven the factory-prepared 360 Challenge. “The 360 has better braking than any other road car. Even so, the difference between a standard 360 and a Challenge car is night and day,” Cheshire says. “If the Stradale’s handling is anywhere near the racecar’s, it will be nothing short of fantastic.”
Fantastic, yes. Comfortable, no. The bare-bones Stradale is not an ideal long-distance commuter. “For day-to-day driving, the 360 Modena is the logical choice,” says Simone Piatelli, Ferrari spokesman. “But for younger drivers, or owners who find their pleasures on the track, the new car is better. The Stradale complements the 360. It doesn’t replace anything.” For some 360 owners, clearly it will.