14 November 2012

1998 Ferrari F355 Challenge - This Ain't No Game

If you're of a certain age, you clicked on this thread and expected a reference to the Sega game; you won't be disappointed. I was addicted to the arcade version of Ferrari F355 Challenge like Keith Moon was to blowing up bogs. Many a copper coin disappeared into the slot in the quest for a faster lap and when the game was released on the Sega Dreamcast console, many an hour vanished in similar fashion.

This was not one of those racing games you can breeze right through without a second thought, bouncing off walls and drifting on badly-worn titles; you'd have a rude awakening if you approached the game that way. The physics engine in Challenge is not only realistic, but also very challenging, as the name would imply. Designed by the legendary Yu Suzuki, F355 Challenge is truly a pleasure to play. A steering wheel was a prerequisite for this game as joypads struggled to keep up with the deftness of inputs needed. If you were really good, you switched off the driver aids and relied on your naked relexes, only to find out how much you were being flattered. Challenge defied the racing game norm and created a new benchmark by which all driving games were measured.

"None of those STUPID flappy paddle nonsense" - Jeremy Clarkson
Balls of iron were probably a prerequisite to drive the real thing, too. Created for Ferrari’s Challenge Series, founded in 1993, which offered race-prepped versions of production Ferraris to select customers in a factory-supported race series, which incidentally continues to this day with the F430 and 458 Italia. The 348 that initiated the series was later replaced by a similarly modified F355. Differing in suspension and brake upgrades, a large rear wing for additional downforce and more comprehensive safety equipment, the Challenge cars are otherwise standard F355 models. The series was (and is) closely fought, as each car is nearly identical, thus requiring drivers to rely on individual skill to be victorious. Contact wasn't encouraged, but any followers of the series knew it was inevitable.

This '98 F355 Challenge is one of just 109 F355 Challenge cars and, wears Ferrari’s traditional Rosso Corsa paint scheme with pride. Last campaigned in the 1998-1999 season, it competed in the Spanish GT Championship run by the Darro Racing Team by driver Gines Vivancos, who later won the 2003 Spanish GT Championship. The car remained in Darro's ownership but was retired form competitive racing but used for demonstrations and track days. Beats a knackered BMW, for sure.
It sold for £34k back in 2008; given the choice between the virtual and the real deal, I'd be suiting up and hitting the track. If I hit the walls however, there's no reset button...

And it's digital counterpart:

Turn all the driver aids off, I dare ya...

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