Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip, Ferrari provided a night’s accommodation in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
LAKEVILLE, Conn.—We weren’t sure that we’d get a chance to see IMSA’s WeatherTech Sportscar Championship race in 2017, but then a call came from the nice people at Ferrari asking if we wanted to drive one of their 488 GTB supercars up to the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. As you might imagine, that wasn’t a hard decision to make. You can read all about the road car elsewhere on the site, so what follows is an up-close-and-personal look at Scuderia Corsa’s 488 GT3 race car.
Ferrari 488s can be found racing in a number of different series across the world, split between two different categories or rule sets. There’s the 488 GTE, which races at Le Mans, in the World Endurance Championship, and IMSA’s GTLM class. Then there’s the more numerous 488 GT3 (which races in IMSA’s GTD class along with plenty of other GT3 machines). Unlike GTE cars, which are built to a specific set of technical regulations, GT3 cars are a little closer to their road-going equivalents. That’s because the category was dreamt up to allow amateur racing drivers—who make up the bread and butter of sports car racing—to battle each other in cars that don’t necessarily require pro-levels of skill.
To make categorization more confusing, the 488 GTE and 488 GT3 are close enough that one can be converted to the other without a huge amount of work, something Scuderia Corsa did when it competed at Le Mans earlier this year. One of its cars even finished third in class.
The 488 GT3 starts life on the same production line as the road car we drove to see it, and it uses the same 3.9L twin-turbo V8, seven-speed dual clutch gearbox (albeit with easily changed gear ratios), and even tips the scales at about the same curb weight. But life on the racetrack requires some adaptations. The wheel arches are wider to accommodate big slick tires. The front spoiler is gone, replaced by a massive carbon fiber splitter, and, at the rear, the diffuser is even bigger, although lacking that clever movable flap. Oh, and you might also notice that huge rear wing bolted on the rear. All of those changes conspire to give the GT3 car much more downforce than the road-going version.
On the inside, things are also a little different to the leather-wrapped luxury of the 488 GTB. For one thing, the passenger seat is missing, and the roll cage makes getting in and out a little trickier. The driver’s seat is fixed in place, with movable pedals to cope with drivers of different heights. While the steering wheel—complete with quick-release mechanism—is still festooned with buttons and dials, there’s another bank of switches and controls on a center console to the driver’s right. And since the GT3 category was created with amateurs in mind, the cars are allowed to run electronic driver aids like antilock brakes and stability control as well as traction control software.
The view out the front of the car remains quite good, but to either side, it’s obscured by the large protective wings on the racing seat and completely blocked behind thanks to a solid firewall that separates the cockpit from engine bay. Instead, there’s a rear-view camera which also incorporates a rather clever radar system to detect when faster cars are coming, something that happens all the time in multi-class racing.
The engine bay reveals a few changes, too, like the huge intercoolers that run its length. But deep down, underneath all the added technical gubbins, the traditional crackle-finished red cam covers are still just about visible.
Because Lime Rock Park is a rather short track—just seven turns and 1.5 miles—the Northeast Grand Prix only featured cars from the GTLM and GTD classes; the prototype DPi racers stayed at home. During a caution-free 2h 45min, Scuderia Corsa’s driver pairing of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan drove a solid race, working their way up from ninth at the start to finish sixth in class. As a result, they extended their lead in the championship to 17 points. With just three races left on the 2017 IMSA calendar, it’s looking like it’s going to be Scuderia Corsa’s year again.
Listing image by Scuderia Corsa
This article was reblogged from Ars Technica.