Ferrari reloaded- F360 Challenge Stradale [review]

Car Specifications
3586cc, Normal Aspiration
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, 40 valves, DOHC
Top Speed: 
300 km/h
6-speed F-1 robotized manual
4.1 seconds
425 bhp at 8500 rpm
373 Nm at 4750 rpm
  • A genuinely lightweight supercar
  • Race ready suspension

photos by Roberto Carrer

It would seem Ferrari is not one for abbreviations if the 360 Challenge Stradale is anything to go by. It may well be a mouthful but there is a method to this madness. The cognisant among you would have heard of the Ferrari Challenge Championship a one make, one model race series for customers. The Challenge cars are factory prepared race versions of the 360 Modena with a FIA sealed and inspected engine rated conservatively at 400 bhp, exactly the same as the standard 360. However its dry weight is just 1160 kg considerably lighter than the 1290 kg of the Modena. Ferrari has also developed the 360 GT for the FIA GT Championships which is an even more extreme car having 430 bhp and weighing just 1100 kg.

Both these cars are not for sale to the general public and they had to come up with something new to market to address the challenge posed by the new Porsche GT3 and the forthcoming Lamborghini Gallardo.

The technical brief given to the engineers for the new car was to use their collective knowledge of the 360 Challenge, 360 GT and F-1 development and come up with the “Stradale”. Incidentally “Stradale” is Italian for “road” or “street” which implies this is the road-going version of the Challenge car. In reality it is a little more than that. Its 3.6-litre V8 develops 25 bhp more than the standard car’s and it’s dry weight is 1180 kg, just a little heavier than the Challenge car’s thanks to the need for daily luxuries like air-conditioning, air-bags and a stereo system. For the discerning owner, there is an extreme variant of the Stradale with race seats and Lexan sliding windows while the standard version gets leather wrapped seats and electric wind-up windows.

The real good news is that the Stradale is not just a one-off model but it will join the current line up of the 360 Modena and Spider with a potential production rate of 900 units a year. If you think that’s a lot for such a specialised car think again, The production for this year, some 400 units have already been snapped up and they are already taking orders for well into next year. July is the date of the first customer deliveries in Europe and USA but the RHD version will only be available in September.

If you like us think Ferrari had gone a little soft in recent years, merely pandering to the tastes of the well heeled, well the Stradale addresses this lingering doubt. Unfortunately it still panders to the well heeled because it costs about 25% more. However it is a substantially revised and focused car far more than the minor cosmetics would suggest. Take note those of you thinking of convincing your other half because it does not have an auto mode, it’s that focused.

The short version of the technical brief is just 3 seconds, the very time the engineering team had to shave off the original 360 Modena’s lap time around Fiorano track. Not an easy task as the Modena is already plenty fast. More power is not the key nor is it the quicker shift times. Sure the 25 bhp and 150 ms shifts help but the trick is to reduce weight and they did so by a substantial 110 kg. Unsprung mass reduction which included things like titanium wheel studs, springs and CCM (Carbon Ceramic Brakes) contributed to 5 kg. The engine and gearbox shaved another 11 kg with the use of titanium conrods, lightweight exhaust plumbing and selective machining of components.

But the bodywork saved a whopping 94 kg by the strategic use of carbon fibre on the door panels, engine bonnet, racing seats, air filter and intake casings and various interior inserts. The underbody tray is also optimised taking 50% off its original weight. The use of Lexan in the side windows eliminates the glass and winding mechanism which is also quite a considerable weight saving.

Aerodynamic tuning was focused to provide even more down force without increasing drag which remains at Cd 0.335. With just small revisions to the front spoiler, side skirts and the under body, Ferrari has managed to increase downforce to 270 kg at 295 km/h about 90 kg greater than the Modena. Thankfully there are no wings or add on spoilers to mess up the clean lines of the car.

Although the V8 engine still displaces 3586cc, it has been optimised by porting and polishing. More importantly its compression ratio has crept up to 11.2:1. Revisions to cam timing and ignition timings further optimise combustion efficiency. Getting the exhaust gasses out has also received attention with a new low back-pressure exhaust silencer system. This being the most obvious change as the exhaust bark is as loud as the latest WRC cars’. Ferrari themselves admit that there will probably be some revisions to make it quieter as even the local Modenese were not so happy with our cars as we flew by at full throttle.

Then again it could be the speed at which these machines whisked by because the Stradale sounds and behaves like a track car. The reduction of 110 kg is very telling as the car really rockets ahead given there is just a modest hike in power. The same rocket effect can be attained with even more horsepower but inertia due to weight will not be easily overcome with just better brakes. No doubt, the 364mm CCM brakes have the requisite stopping power but it is the low weight of the car that allows the brakes to produce incredibly short stopping distances. The CCM brakes are there to provide the stamina. The five laps around Fiorano did not wilt the brakes one bit and they were used very hard especially down the fast straight where it had to wipe off 200 plus km/h in one stab for the 2nd gear tight right hander.

Lowering the weight of a car is better than increasing horsepower or extending it’s redline to 9000 rpm. All other things being equal, not only does the car accelerate faster because there is less weight to pull, it stops a lot faster too. As if that were not enough it corners harder as well because the tyres have less mass pushing the car wide.

It would not be fair to give all the credit to the car as the latest Pirelli P-Zero Corsa seem to produce amazing grip, approaching that of race compounds. The quasi race tyres have a tread pattern that allows it to pass street regulations with sufficient(borderline) drainage for wet weather use. It is suited mainly for dry weather use and it positively acts like glue. Of course it should be durable but do not expect it to match the Rosso’s longevity especially since it will be seeing a lot of track use. Pirelli has worked in conjunction with the Ferrari engineers on this project and the Corsa will be the only tyres available for the Stradale but that is absolutely no drawback it turns out.

The suspension of course has been revised. It helps lower the car’s center of gravity by 15mm and this not only adds to the handling and grip but it also increases the ground effect to attain that 270 kg of downforce at 295 km/h. Titanium is now used in the springs, a particularly difficult engineering task but there is a 27% weight savings and are now 20% stiffer. The dampers are electronically controlled and have two settings. Sport and Race, no prizes for guessing which one is stiffer. While Ferrari claims the normal setting “Sport” is more comfortable over their cobble stone roads, “Race” sharpened the chassis response vividly, much more than Sport provided comfort. Race setting also controls other engine and transmission settings to allow the most performance to be eked out from the chassis.

Admittedly the rock hard Race setting will jiggle your brain to jelly and on a few occasions effect vision; Race mode is still the setting to enable. Ferrari had mapped out a decent course for us but there was one particular road that legend had it having 100 corners. Taking a detour was not what Ferrari had in mind but it just had to be done. As for the 100corners, by the third corner all other non-vital activity ceased and the focus was on pure driving. Sure the road was not in pristine condition and it may have been a few corners shy of 100 but it snaked all the way down the mountain for 20 incredible minutes. There were a few moments the ASR saved the day but it cuts in very late, even later in Race setting.

The positive way the steering relays grip and balance, the way the gears change at just a flick of a stalk, the way that the power shoots the car out of corners, the way the tyres grip and grip and the way you become one with the car in all that it does is just astounding. There was no need for a track session at Fiorano to tell us this is something really special. Fiorano was just the icing on a very nice cake. They had secretly wired the Stradale with telemetry and saved it all in their computers no doubt to blackmail us in some way later on but it proved that this is the Ferrari to use on and off the track. This is the Ferrari to own if driving is what you live for. This is the best-darned Ferrari they have come up with yet. In its final iteration the 360 Challenge Stradale shaves three and a half seconds off the Modena’s Fiorano times, mission accomplished.



C.APACITY : 3586cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : V8 90 degree
VALVES : 5-valve heads 40 valves DOHC per bank
BORE X STROKE : 85 x 79mm
MAXIMUM POWER : 425 bhp at 8500 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 373 Nm at 4750 rpm

TYPE : 6-speed F-1 Electro-hydraulic control

TOP SPEED : 300 km/h
0-100KM/H : 4.1 seconds

FRONT : Double wishbones, Forged Aluminium
REAR : Double wishbones, Forged Aluminium

FRONT : 380mm Carbon Ceramic Discs
REAR : 350mm Carbon Ceramic Discs

TYPE : Pirelli P-Zero Corsa
SIZE : f: 225/35 ZR 19, r: 285/35 ZR 19

ABS : Yes
AIRBAGS : Yes x 2

LENGTH : 4477mm
WIDTH : 1922mm
HEIGHT : 1199mm
WHEELBASE : 2600mm
DRY WEIGHT : 1180 kg


What a brilliant Ferrari. The weight reduction program improves all performance aspects of the F360 CS even without the extra horses but Ferrari didn't stop there and pushed power to 425 bhp. Raw and exciting. Always a life affirming drive. Best Ferrari in the stables now (2003).- AL
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