The 296 Challenge was presented at the 2023 Ferrari Finali
Ferrari has unveiled the 296 Challenge as a record-breaking, track-only edition of the 296 GTB that ditches the hybrid system for a pure-petrol V6 with 690bhp.
Presented at the 2023 Ferrari Finali, the firm's celebration of its involvement in motorsport, it is the latest in a series of Ferraris developed specifically for the firm's customer-only championship racing title, the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli. It is also the first six-cylinder car to compete in the series.
On sale now at €318,000 (£276,851) before taxes, the 296 Challenge is the ninth racer developed for the series, replacing the V8-engined 488 Challenge.
Speaking at the unveiling, head of Ferrari Challenge Andrea Mladosic said it was a "giant leap from the analogical to the digital era". It will make its racing debut in the 2024 season of Ferrari Challenge, with its first race taking place in April in North America, before it comes to Europe in May.
The racer forgoes the 296’s electrified powertrain, drawing its power solely from a race-modified version of the standard car’s 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 - the first V6 used by a Ferrari race car outside of Formula 1 since the 1960s.
Total output is rated at 690bhp - claimed to be a new power record for Ferrari’s racing series – and torque is rated at 545lb ft.
Asked why the firm decided to remove the engine's hybrid element, Ferrari's non-homologated vehicle leader, Manuela Cecconi, said: "We de-hybridised in favour of weight and ease of use for track work."
Ferrari said the removal of the hybrid system saved 140kg, the 296 Challenge weighing in at 1330kg.
The weight reduction has also been helped by the use of carbonfibre, which, according to Cecconi, is used only "where there is a clear difference in structure, performance, and weight”.
Following on from cars such as the F355 Challenge, F430 Challenge and 488 Challenge, the new car's specification closely relates to that of the 296 GT3, which made its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona at the beginning of 2023.
As with the non-homologated racers that have gone before, aerodynamics have been a core focus for the engineering programme, resulting in downforce figures that are said to be unheard of in Ferrari's race series - mostly achieved through a carbonfibre, body-width rear spoiler that sits higher than the roofline.
At 155mph, the 296 Challenge generates 870kg of downforce when its spoiler is extended to its most severe angle. For context, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS generates 860kg of downforce at 177mph.
Cecconi said: "We gave it maximum downforce and minimum sensitivity to make the car as predictable as possible during the different dynamic conditions of the track."
It is said to generate 18% more downforce than the preceding 488 Evo Challenge and laps Mugello a whole two seconds quicker.
Its top speed is said to be slower than the 488 Evo Challenge, but Ferrari says it counters this by being faster through corners.
Stopping power comes from a braking system adapted and improved over the road-going 296's. Called ABS Evo Track, it features carbon-ceramic discs developed by Brembo specifically for the racing market, and chosen for their durability and resistance to wear. Ferrari claims the discs are three times longer lasting than those of the 488 Evo Challenge and the pads twice as long lasting.
Its overall dynamics and on-track behaviour have been developed to give the car as much rear-end precision as possible to make it more accessible to the customers who will purchase it.