With the Michelotto developed F430 GT(C), Ferrari finally managed to break Porsche's stronghold on what is currently known as the GT2 or GTE class. Introduced ahead of the 2006 season, the V8-engined machine won its class in all major championships and races at least once. With well over 50 examples produced, it was also the most popular customer racing car produced by Ferrari since the days of the legendary 250 GT.
In 2010 the F430 road car was replaced by the all-new 458 Italia and late in that same year the first pictures of a competition version emerged. Naturally, Michelotto had been called in again to turn Ferrari's latest road car into a top GT2/GTE contender. Since the launch of the F430 GT, the level of competition had increased considerably with the likes of Corvette, Aston Martin and BMW also joining the fray, so the Padua based company certainly had its work cut out.
The 458 Italia's lightweight aluminium spaceframe chassis also forms the core of its racing derivative. Where allowed by the regulations the suspension geometry has been optimised for the track. The 4.5 litre V8 engine is also carried over but due to the mandatory restrictors only produces around 470 bhp compared to the 570 bhp put out by the road car. This power is transferred to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox, operated by a conventional gear-lever
Testing of the 458 Italia GT2 commenced late in 2010 with works driver Jamie Melo clocking up many miles on Ferrari's Fiorano track. Michelotto continued the development work well into 2011 and the first customer cars were barely ready for the official Sebring test in February. A month later at the season opening Sebring 12 Hours four 458s were present but various teething problems prevented them from vying for the top positions in the GTE class.
The 458 Italia GT2's first class win came two weeks later when the JMW Motorsport example led two sister cars home during the Le Castellet 6 Hours. For the all-important 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, five examples are entered. Judging from the times set during the Le Mans Test, the new Ferrari will certainly be among the favourites for another GT class win.
Whilst the F430 is a very ugly roadcar, but nice to look at race car, the 458 roadcar is as beautiful as the 458 GTC is terrible. Everything seems to be out of place, the body is very different to it's related original.
Surely, form follows function, which is shown best on the new Audi R18 which is ugly as hell too, but my hope was that the GT category keeps having the most beautiful racecars on the circuits. Things are changing...