You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to recognize the racing merits of Ferrari’s stripped-down Challenge Stradale. You just have to drive the car. When he test-drove the Stradale—a lighter, faster, race-ready version of the 360 Modena—Joel Franck, a neurosurgeon from Durham, Maine, knew he had found a durable alternative to his more civilized Maseratis. After purchasing the Stradale earlier this year, Franck graciously shared the first ride in his new 425 hp vehicle. “I like this,” he remarked as we pulled out of the Ferrari of New England lot. “I think I’m going to have trouble keeping it parked.”
Franck may not be alone. Although Ferrari presents the Stradale as a purebred track animal, spend a few minutes behind the wheel and you might argue against that assessment. The changes made to the 360 Modena have improved the driving experience without compromising the car’s practicality. In other words, the Challenge Stradale supports the adage that less is more. The Stradale’s door panels, floor, brake discs, seats, and trim are made of lightweight carbon fiber, and the suspension and wheel bolts are fashioned from titanium. As a result, the car weighs 242 pounds less than the 360 Modena.
The moment I took the helm of Franck’s Ferrari, the benefits of the Stradale’s weight-reduction program became apparent. Turn-in was much crisper, long sweepers were dispatched with even greater disdain, and with an extra 25 horses on tap, everything happened a bit faster. (The carbon ceramic brakes were greatly appreciated.) From the squashed-crown steering wheel to the black-on-yellow central tachometer, the interior reflects the Stradale’s athleticism—as does the car’s electrohydraulic transmission, which offers a race mode and a launch control button, the same component that Ferrari’s Formula One machines feature.