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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Schumi Takes the California to the Ring

Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari California

Ferrari is known for its motorsports prowess, and one reason many owners flock to the Prancing Horse is the brand's dedication to proving itself at the track. However with its latest creation, the California, Ferrari is offering a (somewhat) softer-edged sports car more focused on day-to-day use as a GT than clipping apexes. But despite its extra amenities, the iconic sports car maker is quick to note that the California is still a Ferrari, and recently invited its most famous driver, Michael Schumacher, to take a production model for a spin on the shorter F1 circuit at the Nurburgring in front of 20,000 fans.

Some enthusiasts are up in arms over the new California's many practical touches such as child-friendly rear seats, trunk space for two golf bags, an infotainment system, and an aluminum retractable hardtop. Although this hasn't stopped the car from quickly selling out, Ferrari's claim that 60% of buyers for the first allocation are first-time owners may mean the car has not been a hit with the company's current client base. In any case, just as Schumacher frequently test drives Ferrari prototypes (and may or may not crash them on occasion), the seven time F1 World Champion has been involved in the California's development since its inception to help ensure it continues the automaker's tradition of stellar performance. So at the end of the recent Ferrari Racing Days event, on the heels of the California's appearance at the Paris Motor Show Schumi climbed behind the wheel of an example to put it through its paces on the track.

Comprised of several races and special events at the 'Ring, the recent Ferrari Racing Days included the Ferrari Challenge Pirelli Trophy, a single-model racing series running since 1993 and currently open to F430 owners, and the Shell Historic Challenge, which pit several vintage Maseratis, Ferraris, and others against each other in competition. In addition, members of the FXX Program gathered for some test laps in their special, Enzo-based racers, and were joined by Schumacher before he moved on to the California. Despite bad weather, nearly 20,000 spectators traveled to the Nurburgring for the day's festivities and were treated to the sight of a legendary driver flogging Maranello's latest creation around one of the world's most famous tracks.

Despite what would no doubt be considerable interest from enthusiasts, Schumi's latest lap time in the production California hasn't been revealed -- after all, it was just for fun.

Source: Ferrari