For the second round of the 2021 Ferrari Challenge season in North America, the championship will make a long-awaited return to Sonoma Raceway in the heart of the Napa valley. A packed schedule and a full paddock await as the Challenge season continues at the technical 2.22-mile circuit.
Return to Wine Country: Ferrari Challenge is making its return to the Sonoma circuit after a five-year hiatus. The 2.22-mile, 12-turn course last hosted the Challenge series in 2016 when the series made use of the 458 Challenge Evo cars. The historic circuit has hosted nearly every major racing series, from being featured as one of two road-courses on the NASCAR circuit to drag racing on the central drag strip.
The configuration used by the Challenge series enjoys many of the same difficulties navigated by these other series. Most notably, the Turn 1 and Turn 2 sequence where the track rises over 100 feet while turning to the left. Drivers have to navigate that sequence while slowing the car from over 140mph down to just over 60mph for a very tricky right-hander. From there, drivers continue on to a sharp right-hander leading down to the carousel and onto the drag strip for the longest straight on the track. Heavy breaking into Turn 7 represents the best chance for overtaking. From there, the Ferrari Challenge series will make use of the optional Turn 9 chicane before heading to the original turn 11 hairpin.
Entries continue to show strength: With over 40 Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo cars racing and an additional 18 Ferraris participating in the Club Challenge program, the Challenge series continues to hold its status as the pre-eminent single-make GT series in North America. The Sonoma entry represents a high-water mark for the nascent 2021 season as drivers are clearly enthusiastic for the series’ return to the California circuit.
Class battles beginning to show definition: After a single race-weekend at VIR, the 2021 Challenge season is already shaping up to be incredibly competitive. While Trofeo Pirelli is led by the sole entrant thus far in the category, Cooper MacNeil (Ferrari of Westlake), in Trofeo Pirelli AM1, Martin Burrowes (Ferrari of Ft. Lauderdale) leads the way, but Barry Zekelman (Ferrari of Ontario), Dave Musial (Ferrari of Lake Forest) and Neil Gehani (Continental Autosports) are all within a single point of each other. In the AM2 category Jason McCarthy (Wide World Ferrari) leads over Brian Davis (Ferrari of Palm Beach) and John Megrue (Ferrari of Long Island). Notably, Keysin Chen (Ferrari of Beverly Hills) has been elevated after his first-ever racing weekend at VIR into the Trofeo Pirelli AM2 category. In Coppa Shell, Todd Coleman (Ferrari of Denver) will look to carry on his strong momentum after back to back wins at VIR while Brandon Kruse will unfortunately miss this round and so will certainly cede his championship lead to another driver in the category.
Schedule: The Challenge series continues to live-stream all qualifying and racing sessions on live.ferrari.com as well as the Ferrari Races Facebook page. Testing sessions will begin on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by official practice sessions on Friday. Saturday’s action will begin with qualifying sessions at 9:35 a.m. (all times in PT) and racing at 1:35 p.m. Sunday’s schedule will broadly mirror Saturday with qualifying again beginning at 9:35 a.m. and racing sessions at 1:15 p.m.