CIRCUIT MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada
— I can see it in the distance, a black and green dragon waiting, hungry, practically drooling for a chance to swallow me whole and spit me out in tattered, racing-red shreds. Turn 8. And I’m blasting toward it so fast it feels like I’ve just exited a bazooka.
Flat out in sixth gear, the mechanized fury of the turbocharged V-8 behind my ears pummeling me like a hailstorm inside the stripped-bare cockpit, the first in a row of LED redline indicators on the wheel alights—then another, then another. A rivulet of sweat plops into my eye, and I fight to blink away the sting. Still I’m flat on the gas. Then, within a single heartbeat, furious drama: I reach my braking marker, the dragon leaps out to devour me, and at the last possible second … now! I hammer my right foot on the pedal harder than I’d kick an IRS collector, and the Ferrari slams into an invisible catcher’s mitt, my helmet straining forward against the HANS restraint straps. I crack off two downshifts with the left shift paddle, begin easing off the brakes, and in a crush of lateral g’s, I turn into the apex.
My helmet crackles as my passenger in the right seat—instructor and pal Anthony Lazzaro—barks through the intercom: “OK! No brakes! No throttle! No pedals! Just coast!”
Coast? Isn’t the old adage, “In a race car, you’re always either on the gas or the brakes”? Doesn’t coasting mean losing time? Since my very first racing school 30 years ago I’ve followed the cornering mantra: in slow, out fast. I’ve been a practitioner of trail-braking, turning in while gradually trading the tires’ stopping power for cornering grip. I’ve used light throttle to balance the car before acceleration. But never have I simply coasted. Without me saying a word, Lazzaro seems to grasp my bafflement. “It’s one of the biggest myths in racing, the always-pedaling thing,” he says. “People watch an onboard camera from a Formula 1 car, but they aren’t understanding what they’re seeing. I guarantee you Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is coasting into the apex before getting back on the power.” Well, if it’s good enough for Seb. I do as Lazzaro says (nobody’s ever explicitly told me this before), and it works! With zero throttle the Ferrari’s nose doesn’t lift a millimeter—maintaining front-end weight so the front tires bite harder—and the 488 Challenge race car turns in as if it’s on a leash. Eureka! It’s a bona fide lightbulb moment, as if I’ve finally been given the password to enter the Racing Secret Circle & Grille. Moreover, with the car now so perfectly set up at the apex, I’m able to get back on the throttle harder and sooner, which equals more speed at corner exit.
No brakes! No throttle! No pedals! Just coast!
No brakes! No throttle! No pedals! Just coast!
Later, with instructor Jeff Segal (the only man with class wins at Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Daytona 24 in a Ferrari), I review the onboard telemetry from my laps. “See here how you’re giving up a little speed on the way in but gaining more speed on the way out?” Segal asks. “You’re not fighting the car on the exit. You’re blasting out of the turns and gaining time all the way down the straight. On this lap you got blocked by traffic near the end, but you still were more than two seconds quicker than yesterday.”
It’s working. I’m becoming a Ferrari 488 Challenge race driver.
Superman in a Supercar
Ferrari race driver. Can three more evocative, seductive, aspirational words exist for a motorsports enthusiast? Who hasn’t watched Le Mans or the Monaco Grand Prix and thought, “Man, that should be me inside that beautiful machine with the Prancing Horse.” Who hasn’t at least asked themselves, “I wonder if I could even do that?”
Since 1993, Ferrari’s unique Corso Pilota training program has been answering “what ifs” and turning fantasies into realities for hundreds if not thousands of Ferrari owners and aficionados. Now offered in three locations in North America—Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec; Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas; and The Thermal Club track near Palm Springs, California—Corso Pilota is a series of four courses, each a step up in speed and advanced techniques. The program is designed to train even novices to a skill level where they’re fully qualified to race in the ultracompetitive, seriously fast Ferrari 488 Challenge series, which attracts everyone from future pro racers to entrepreneurs to celebrities such as actor Michael Fassbender.
For 2017, that meant six race weekends at tracks across America plus the opportunity to earn a spot in the Ferrari World Finals in October at Italy’s Mugello Circuit. “The best part about Corso Pilota is you can test the waters,” says Ian Campbell, head of a research firm in Boston and a classmate of mine at Mont-Tremblant. “It’s certainly not an incidental expense, so you don’t want to jump in and then find out you don’t like it. Instead, the program gives you a chance to sample the 488 Challenge race car in a controlled environment and work your way into it before you commit to the full race series.”
Ah, the 488 Challenge. Monica Belluci in metal. Ours is the first North American class to pilot the new machine (the previous Challenge cars were based on the 458 Italia). That means about 100 more horsepower (at least 661 hp, but Ferrari won’t say for sure) from its 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8 paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch shifter, which is essentially the same combo as in the 488 GTB road car (the race transmission gets shorter ratios). But the 488 Challenge is thoroughly reworked for track duty: slick tires, wings, a roll cage, racing brakes, a gutted interior with a new race-optimized panel, deep buckets with six-point belts, vastly reworked bodywork with a more aggressive aero package, and revised electronic driver aids with a new, two-phase traction control system. Using a knob on the wheel, the driver can select when the system intervenes and how aggressively it does so.
Source : http://www.automobilemag.com/news/becoming-a-ferrari-488-challenge-race-driver/