If you want a British-built, track-friendly lightweight sports car you're not short of options. Unless, that is, you want a roof over your head too.
AUG 02nd 2016
Dan Trent: Ginetta G40R – Dan goes in search of some local produce
I've spoken previously about my love for Caterhams and, in all honesty, with 20-something-thousand to blow on a weekend plaything I'd be wringing my hands over whether to spend it on a Seven like this 1.6-litre, Sigma-engined Supersport. Or this baby blue Ginetta G40R.
The classic, open air thrills of a Caterham are something special. Up to a point. I remember driving one along a rain-soaked M6 when I realised things had suddenly got a bit louder and a lot wetter. Not a moment too soon I realised that was because the roof was detaching itself from the windscreen and only a panicked grab of the flapping end and a white knuckle dart to the hard shoulder prevented it from blowing away completely. So yes. Caterhams, Westfields and newer alternatives like the roofless Zenos do have their limitations. Especially when it rains. And it rains quite a lot where I live in Yorkshire.
So my gaze has been drawn to Ginettas, built just down the road from me in Leeds and, for all the exotic sounding name, as Yorkshire as cobbled streets, mill chimneys, whippets and whatever other stereotypes those living the other end of the M1 might imagine. More accurately Ginettas are a combination of no-nonsense engineering, sound business sense and a general fitness for purpose befitting the leadership of tell-it-like-it-is boss
For all its classic looks and traditional construction methods – there's nothing fancy pants about its steel spaceframe, front-mounted Ford engine, rear-wheel drive or fibreglass body – this is a much more modern machine than a Caterham. And, truly, a racing car for the road. I've driven various iterations on circuit and they're serious little cars, very much the pint-sized GT racing machine. Road legal G40s have been sold in small numbers but have never really taken off as they have in racing, where the BTCC-supporting G40 Juniors are just one of a number of stepping stones Ginetta offers all the way up to full-on LMP3 cars.
There's something about it being a coupe that just makes it appear a much more serious proposition than a Caterham or similar. And it feels it on the track too. These are raw, back to basics cars designed to teach budding racers a thing or two as they perfect their craft. They're not especially easy to drive either, the short wheelbase and total lack of driver aids meaning they will willingly swap ends at a moment's notice. But I like a challenge and mastering a G40 will set you up nicely for racing all manner of other machines, classic or modern.
With a decent boot, air conditioning (sounds extravagant on a car like this but that small cabin can get a bit sweaty on a hot day) and the bare bones of creature comforts this is a car for enjoying the roadtrip to the circuit as well as your time on it. You won't need a trailer and a tow car, you won't need a spare set of race rubber and you won't need to faff. As a self-contained, one-man road and track fun machine it's pretty hard to beat in fact. The pragmatic, all-weather solution to all your track day needs in other words. Now that's one local stereotype I'll happily live by.
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