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The Ferrari 296 Challenge racer drops hybrid power, retains V6

The 2024 Ferrari Challenge race series has introduced its ninth-generation machine, based on the 296 GTB

The finale of the 2023 Ferrari Challenge one-make series has now concluded at Mugello Circuit, marking the end of the line for the Ferrari 488 Challenge racer. Initially launched in 2017 before an Evo overhaul in 2020, the model has now run its course, and its new Ferrari 296 Challenge successor is gearing up for a debut in the 2024 season, as the ninth model in the series’ history. 

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While based on the 296 GTB road car, it shares a number of elements with its highly successful GT3 racecar sibling, making it a promising replacement for the 488 Challenge car.

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Having made its public debut on the eve of this year's Finali Mondiali event, the 296 Challenge drops the hybrid assistance of the road car for a less complex, pure-combustion approach. As opposed to the 3.9-litre V8 of its predecessor, it features the same 3-litre 120-degree turbocharged V6 as the GTB road car (and 296 GT3, for that matter), sending 681bhp and 546lb ft to the rear wheels – although that’s 20bhp more than the 488 Challenge Evo, torque is down 14lb ft. 

Given that the GT3 is capped to 592bhp by regulations, the 296 Challenge’s 681bhp pure-combustion output is the most of any iteration of the F163 V6 yet – torque remains at 546lb ft. The road car makes do with 654bhp (albeit augmented by 165bhp of hybrid boost for an 819bhp total). To achieve this new power figure, Ferrari has increased boost, altered calibration and reduced exhaust back pressure by 30 per cent over the road car thanks to a Gas Particulate Filter delete and a Tubi Style exhaust.

Ferrari says the model has been designed with both performance and consistency in mind, applying similar solutions to those found in the 296 GT3 launched last year – given that car’s incredible success in the likes of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, this is no bad thing. While it has omitted the trick hybrid system of the road car, the marque has also applied cutting-edge tech from the road car, including the ABS EVO Track system for improved braking performance in racing conditions.

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Overall design isn’t as extreme as the dramatically sculpted, high-downforce GT3, but the Challenge features plenty of track-specific upgrades on its exterior nonetheless. A pair of canards, a more aggressive splitter, rear wing, side skirts and diffuser all contribute to a peak downforce figure of 870kg at 155mph, the highest of any Ferrari Challenge car so far. Unique front and rear bumpers, a vented bonnet and a meshed rear bumper similar in style to that found on the 296 GT3 are also present for cooling. 

Chassis changes haven’t been disclosed, but a complete geometry overhaul is clear to see, with the bespoke Rotiform wheels sat further into their arches and a significant helping of negative camber. Each car will also be fitted with a set of new 19-inch Pirelli tyres developed specifically for the Challenge model. In addition to the ABS EVO Track system, new CCM-R PLUS brake discs are also said to improve braking performance and consistency for those long stints on track. 

With standard glass, unnecessary interior gubbins and the hybrid system removed, weight now stands at 1330kg (dry), 140kg less than the road car. It’s not all reductions, either, with Ferrari having to add more cooling solutions and a 12V starter motor to the pure-combustion Challenge. 

The new Ferrari 296 Challenge will hit the track next year in the Europe and North America series, and will cost each driver from €318k plus VAT and racing fees.

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