Choosing A Track Car
In this article we discuss what is involved when choosing an appropriate car for track days. No specific recommendations will be made as a car is a very personal thing, but there are a few things you should keep in mind if track use is high on your agenda. So what should be considered?
Use: A big consideration is how you intend or need to use the car in question? This is important to consider as it guides almost all of the decision making process afterwards when choosing the car. You should generally be asking yourself the following questions:
-Does the car have to be daily driven as well as being capable of performing well on track days?
-Is it going to just be a weekend toy?
-Or can it be a single-minded track focused machine which isn’t even road legal?
These questions are key when making a decision on the correct car for you and should definitely be thought about. For example: You’re unlikely to want a Caterham or a Radical if you can only have one car that has to be daily driven as well as tracked - but on the other hand a pure track toy doesn’t require things like an MOT or insurance.
Running Costs: Following on from the previous point the running costs of any car must be considered. Generally the main thing to consider for track use is the availability of parts: is the car commonly available with many retailers stocking consumables? Or is it more of a niche car where parts may be tricky (and expensive) to get hold of? This then follows on to the cost of parts and consumables. The things you’ll purchase the most when using a car on track are likely brake pads, brake fluid and tyres. Look out for cars that come on a common tyre size as you’ll often pay as little as half the price for a common tyre size than a size that is unique to only a few cars.
In addition to consumables and parts, additional costs must of course be considered such as road tax and insurance for road legal cars, and transportation and support for track cars.
All this effects how often you will be able to use the car - having a big heavy expensive track car which you love is no good if you can’t ever afford to take it out. Choosing a lighweight car which is easy on brakes and tyres can free up budget so you can actually spend more time driving it!
Support: Similarly to looking for a commonly available car, it’s often worth looking for cars with a good community or following in your country. This often means that there are other enthusiasts who have already got good ideas or advice on how to get the most out of your particular car on track. Having good garages that specialize in the car can also be of great help for discounted work or advice on common weak points for the car.
Potential: If you’re someone who may be interested in going racing in the future, potential is definitely something to consider. Buying something that’s eligible to race in future is a good idea if this is the direction in which you’re heading. A popular race series (such as the Tegiwa Civic Cup, MR2 Championship or various MX-5 series in the UK) is also usually a good guide to show you what mods or parts are worth doing to your specific car to help it stand up to track use.
In terms of performance potential, do not worry too much. A well driven 90bhp hatchback will blitz past Ferraris and Porsches, and doing so is quite satisfying. It is far more rewarding to overtake powerful cars in a slower one, and with a little tuition (available at all trackdays for about £20 a session) that is exactly what you will be doing.
Fun: To a certain extent it doesn’t matter what car you drive, cheap or expensive, fast or slow as long as you are having fun. A slow car with terrible handling can be fantastic fun on a trackday, and just because you are driving one doesn’t mean the guy with the Radical is having a better time. Try and minimize things that blunt your fun - buy a car you can afford to keep in top mechanical shape and use often, make sure your brakes are up to scratch (the one performance part that will ruin your day!) and then get out there and make your own decisions about what the car needs!