The Fiat 500 Abarth Driving Dynamics Challenge was the opening challenge of the day and was designed to measure the improvement of each driver. Drivers were eligible to receive full points if they demonstrated genuine improvement as they progressed through the track. Drivers that failed to show improvement were not awarded points for this challenge. All of the track times during this challenge were recorded via an on-board car scoring system. Since this was the first challenge, I had to get acquainted with both the curvaceous race course layout and properly driving the 500 Abarth. Going into this event I knew little about the Fiat 500 Abarth, nor its racing pedigree. Flash forward an hour to the end of merely this first competition and I had already gained substantial respect for the compact Italian sports coupe. Good things come in small packages would be an appropriate thing to say here. Beyond the Fiat 500 Abarth’s beautiful performance in the Driving Dynamics Challenge, including precise responsive steering inputs, deep reassuring braking, exceptionally stable suspension; the Abarth was no short of a blast to drive. The growl from the exhaust beckons you to press the gas pedal if only to hear it roar. I’ve heard comparisons in the recent past saying that the Fiat 500 Abarth’s exhaust note is reminiscent of its other, more expensive Italian automotive cousins. Since I was coming from driving a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 and Ferrari 458 Italia less than 2 days prior, I can attest to that claim. Its exhaust essentially sounds like a de-tuned Ferrari 458 from the driver’s seat. The sound element alone is a fairly impressive feat for Fiat considering that it has a mere 1.4L engine, yet can produce such a gorgeous howl.
The Fiat 500 Abarth Autocross Challenge was the second event to take place during the competition and my second favorite event. The quickest lap out of a total number of laps given on the Autocross course was used to rank each participant to one another. Points were awarded on a weighted scale based on the individual standing for each participant. During this challenge you can certainly get a better feel for the 500 Abarth’s unexpectedly quick acceleration (listen for tire burnouts). The Autocross Challenge also better demonstrates the Abarth’s handling ability by means of successfully negotiating tight turns without any noticeable body roll. My respect for the Abarth continued to increases after this challenge was completed. This challenge was the most successful for my team (Team Velocity) as nearly all of our 4 runs each were wins. The passenger is my team leader and world renowned professional SRT Viper driver Kuno Wittmer. Without his guidance on this challenge and others, my performance would have been nothing short of embarrassing.