The king of
Ferrari Challenge cool

The king of Ferrari Challenge cool 01

Meet the Dutch ‘Fonz’
If there’s one name that personifies cool, it’s the Fonz. And the Ferrari Challenge specialises in happy days, so no wonder that’s where you find him. We’re talking of course about Dutchman Fons Scheltema, who – having competed in the Pirelli-equipped series since 2005 – is one of the longest-established competitors in the Ferrari Challenge.
“That definitely sounds better than old!” he laughs. But his unrivalled experience puts him in a unique position to track the evolution of the series, as he’s driven all four of the most recent Ferrari models to feature on it. 
His debut in the series, 13 years ago, was in a Ferrari 360 Challenge Car: the last season that this car was used, having taken over from the original 348. Back then, the 360 Challenge put out 400 horsepower from its 3.5-litre V8 engine. In 2006 he came to renowned Swiss squad Kessel Racing – where he has remained ever since – and drove the 430, which had jumped to 490 horsepower. He went on to drive the Ferrari 458 (from 2011, 570 horsepower) and since this year the 488, which currently forms the backbone of the Ferrari Challenge in its Evo version: the ultimate expression of Ferrari’s global one-make series. These days, it puts out a mighty 670 horsepower from a turbocharged 3.9-litre V8.
“No question, the 488 Evo is my favourite car of them all,” says Fons. “It’s so fast, with so much downforce, that it makes anything else feel like a bit of an old man’s car. And most importantly of all, it gives you so much emozione to drive. That’s why everyone loves Ferrari.”

The king of Ferrari Challenge cool 02

Made in Italy. Via Holland
His passport may be Dutch, but his heart is more Italian: made in Maranello. Fons first fell in love with Ferrari when he bought an F40 – the car that the P Zero tyre was originally designed for, back in 1987 – shortly before he started his racing career in 2005. “I was lucky enough to buy the F40 at a time when they were still relatively cheap,” he says. “And that car got me into racing. I didn’t have any racing experience before I started the Ferrari Challenge, but just driving an F40 on the road teaches you a few things. It’s a beast, isn't it?”
That F40 is still one of his most treasured possessions now. He doesn’t drive it that often, but on a Sunday at home, he’ll frequently push it out of its garage (not starting the engine, to save on mechanical wear and tear) and just look at it while having a coffee. Espresso, naturally.
“That for me was the ultimate car and it wanted to make me race a Ferrari. I’ve never stopped since, but in all this time I’ve been doing the Ferrari Challenge, I’ve noticed a lot of changes. It’s grown rapidly – we have around 25 cars in each class now – there’s a lot more performance, and most of all, the level has become much more professional. I’m not saying that it was ever easy, but now you’re racing against people who have been Porsche one-make champions and even drive old Formula 1 cars in their spare time. For a rookie to come in these days and do well is really tricky. Luckily, I’ve got a bit of experience now, as well as a great feeling with Ronnie Kessel and all his people, which is a fantastic team to be with.”

The king of Ferrari Challenge cool 03

Passion and power
That experience has served him well. Fons took his first podium in 2007, at Monza of all places, in the pouring rain. “They say that if you can drive in the rain, you can drive anywhere,” remembers Fons. “But the real emotion hit me when I signed the book of podium finishers, and then all of a sudden my name was there alongside those of Schumacher and Lauda: it was an incredible feeling. This is what the Ferrari Challenge gives you. I don’t think you get that from any other car company.”
His favourite circuit is another Italian track, Mugello: one of the most technical circuits on the calendar (which is also where Pirelli’s Formula 1 tyres tested for the very first time, in August 2010). “But it’s actually really hard to pick out just one circuit that’s my favourite, because the championship has taken me to so many amazing places,” he adds. “Daytona – with the American series – Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Imola. All the classics, basically.”
His first Ferrari Challenge race in 2005 was at Hockenheim: he fluffed the start and found himself last on the first lap, but actually ended up finishing somewhere in the middle. “It was then that I thought I could actually do this, even though I was a complete beginner. From that point, I was hooked.”
Three wins, five fastest laps, and six pole positions have followed him since, as well as a class championship win in 2012, but there’s one prize that still eludes this charismatic Dutchman: the overall European Ferrari Challenge title. 
“There are some appealing prospects out there for me, such as racing in GT3 and doing some longer endurance races, but I still really still want to win the Ferrari Challenge European title,” he concludes. “As an entrepreneur, I’m always wanting to do things better in life. And my racing is no exception.”

Read more