The 2015 Ferrari Challenge
The single-marque racing series and owner event comes to Sonoma Raceway
Ferrari, more-so than any other auto-maker, has built both a successful auto business and a popular lifestyle brand. You can’t go far in any mall or airport without seeing someone wearing a Ferrari hat, shoes, belt buckle, jacket or some combination thereof. It’s highly unlikely that that person owns or drives a Ferrari; the clientele of each the brand and the auto-maker are usually quite different.
Ferrari takes a unique approach to engaging each of their respective consumer bases. For the Ferrari World enthusiast shopping for new Ferrari sunglasses, a simple retail sale will suffice…For current Ferrari owners and racing enthusiasts, the highly valuable customer base that purchases Maranello’s latest year after year, the company holds the Ferrari Challenge.
At it’s core, Ferrari Challenge is a racing series for professional and gentlemen drivers (self-financed drivers who build / sponsor their own racing teams). Yes, if you have enough capital, you can start your own racing team.
Regardless of where the funding comes from, teams are sponsored by Ferrari dealerships around the country. The series visits top racetracks around the nation, from Laguna Seca to Road America, before finalists from each region compete in Abu Dhabi for the final title at the end of the year.
The second race of the 2015 series took place at Sonoma Raceway during the last weekend of April, as it has for the last several years, the same weekend as the California Mille. While VIP hospitality tickets are available starting at $250 (featuring a lunch buffet, cocktails, and test-drive options), general admission to the track can be had for a mere $20. Spectator access, even general admission, provides full access to the racing pits and up-close access to the race-cars.
The Challenge is a single-marque racing series where all drivers pilot Ferrari’s 458 Challenge model, a track-only version of the Ferrari 458.
The 458 Challenge uses the same 570 bph engine and overall design as the road car, but the similarities end there. A full racing interior, rear spoiler, carbon fiber components and tow hooks encompass only a few of the modifications made. Naturally, the racing spec car also costs more than the road-going car. Taking one of your own to the track costs around $300,000.
Qualifying sessions and racing take place throughout the three-day weekend, although, for the average spectator, half a day or so is more than enough time to watch a few races and fully explore the pits. The track offers multiple vantage points, including perspectives with views of many challenging turns, which are highly recommended.
Other highlights of Sonoma Raceway worth exploring include a motorsports store with a wide range of equipment available for sale, and children’s activities hosted by Ferrari. Sadly, mini go-karting is not available for adults.
The Ferrari Challenge offers a full high performance race-day experience just North of San Francisco, but it’s only part of why Ferrari holds this event.
The day isn’t only for racing teams and spectators, Ferrari also invites local owners to bring their vehicles and spend time on track between races. Over 100 owners come together to drive, show off their cars, and socialize. Highlights of owners cars, from classics to the new LaFerrari, can be found here (available soon).