Best track day cars 2021
Whether you're looking to shave tenths off your lap time, or simply want to have fun, these are some of the UK's best track cars
What with the endless traffic jams, potholed roads and hidden cameras, the UK might not be the place you'd think of to go if you want to drive fast. It may seem like it's impossible to get any enjoyment from driving a car in the UK at all.
There is a solution at hand, however, and one that doesn't necessarily have to break the bank. You could take advantage of some of the finest race circuits in the UK and get your driving thrills on track.
Spending a day driving at a race track is a great way to get to know your car, and if the model in question delivers feedback and responses that encourage you to push the limits further on every lap, then it's a car worth keeping hold of.
These track days charge a fee for you to take part, but once you're paid up, have a helmet and a car that meets the rules of the circuit, then you're free to drive your car to the limits of its performance.
Manufacturers know that track days are a big draw for drivers, and there are a number of track-focused models available to buy, although you don't necessarily need to go down the route of a dedicated race car for the best driving fun.
There are standard production cars that will be just as capable of providing enough excitement, while still proving comfortable enough to drive to the track and back, although if you end up becoming addicted to track days, then you could benefit from a dedicated machine.
In an ideal world, you'll be able to afford a daily driver to use for everyday jobs, and a razor-sharp track day car to garage through the week and unleash at weekends. If that isn't an option, then your weapon of choice might require some semblance of practicality.
Whatever your requirements from a track day car, this round-up should have the perfect vehicle for you. We've got high-end supercars tweaked for eye watering performance and lightweight circuit cars more than capable of embarrassing them in the right hands. Beyond that, hot hatches and performance coupes deliver the kind of track and road compromise that will keep most keen drivers happy.
Here are our top ten track day cars to buy now…
Best track day cars 2021
The first iteration of the 911 GT3 appeared over twenty years ago and, through a process of typical Porsche engineering evolution, the latest 992-series car is certainly one to savour.
Producing 503bhp from its naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six engine, the 2021 GT3 lapped the Nurburgring in 6 minutes 59.927 seconds - a full 17 seconds quicker than the previous-gen model.
But, it's not just the GT3's raw power that helps it onto a top speed of 199mph. Porsche has also invested in extensive use of lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, thinner glass for the windows, forged wheels and a lightweight exhaust.
Added to this impressive package is a new front suspension set-up, tech trickery from the 911 RSR race car and a huge rear spoiler delivering improved downforce.
For those chasing low lap times there's also a new track screen for the infotainment system - showing tyre pressure, oil temperature and pressure, along with a helpful shift-light system. 0-62mph takes just 3.4 seconds, while there is the added bonus for customers of being able to choose between the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, or a six-speed manual 'box.
The Caterham Seven allows you to enjoy the simple pleasures of driving. It’s a perfect car to learn about track driving in and it’s cheap to run every day as well.
There's a wealth of used examples available with various power outputs, but if you're looking at a new purchase the current range is pretty straightforward. The 270, 310, 360, 420 and 620 models refer to the power-to-weight ratio of each car. Roughly speaking, if you half the model number you'll have the car's bhp figure.
The bill for a new Seven can add up pretty quickly if you delve into the options list, but if you're more focused on track racing than pootling down country lanes, you'll want to specify the R Pack which adds sports suspension, carbon fibre trim, composite race seats, four-point race harnesses, a shift light and a limited-slip differential.
If money is no object and you're feeling particularly brave, maybe try out the ferocious 620 model which accelerates from 0-62mph in 2.79s and will go on to a 155mph maximum.
Although the F8 Tributo is the road-going replacement for the 488 GTB model, much of its engineering and tech has filtered down from Ferrari's track-focused 488 Pista.
The F8 Tributo includes the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer system - an amazing piece of track trickery which helps to regulate slip/slide when you're at the limit, and is now also available in Race mode so you can look to exploit the car's full ability on track.
Bring able to drive to and from your chosen circuit in your track special is key for some racers. Make no mistake, though, the F8 Tributo is no compromised machine, but it does offer a certain level of usability on the road that adds to its appeal.
If nothing else, the raw numbers offer a clear indication of the F8 Tributo's capability: the 3.9-litre V8 produces 710bhp and 770Nm of torque, which means 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, 124mph in only 7.8 seconds, and a 211mph maximum. Once you've exited the pit lane, you'll never want to come back in!
You would expect the Huracan Performante to offer an incredible driving experience, and on many levels it does. According to Lamborghini’s experts, there are four key areas in which the Performante has been developed to improve upon the standard Huracan: lightweight materials, the V10 engine, chassis and finally aerodynamics.
This means the Performante is 40kg lighter, 29bhp more powerful and 10 per cent stiffer than the standard car, helping deliver a ferociously fast and surprisingly physical driving experience. Also, the aerodynamic tweaks generate 750 per cent more downforce than the standard car can.
The highlight of the Huracan is still the naturally aspirated V10, which provides 70 per cent of its 600Nm from just 1,000rpm and keeps on pulling past 8,000rpm. The noise it makes is incredible, sounding similar to the Huracan GT3 racer.
It's fair to say that the 720S isn't for the novice track day enthusiast, and you'll need a decent level of skill, experience and perhaps bravery to tap into the car's full potential. The Variable Drift Control system will help you slide round the tightest corners, while the steering is sublime and inspires confidence at, frankly, ridiculous speeds.
The 4.0-litre V8 engine is located behind the seats and features twin-scroll turbos that are designed to minimise lag. It's definitely a box ticked there for McLaren, as the 720S manages the sprint to 62mph under launch control in 2.9 seconds.
Tick the Track Pack option and you'll benefit from a host of extras that should enhance your lap times. Additional kit includes forged alloy wheels, carbon fibre racing seats, an active rear spoiler, six-point racing harnesses and McLaren Track Telemetry (MTT) with a lap time function and three cameras.
Sublime handling balance, communicative controls and a stunning engine, the Cayman GTS is a car you’ll want to lap around a track all day. With an extra 50bhp over a Cayman S, it’s more than quick enough.
The 394bhp Porsche Cayman GTS is a range-topping model, offering more power, styling updates and also a stiffer body. First, a few notes: the Cayman GTS costs just over £10,000 more than the Cayman S, which gets you a PASM adaptive dampers, limited slip differential and the Sports Chrono pack. Add in the power boost and a six-speed manual box, and this feels like the perfect Cayman set-up.
We thought the S was as good as sports cars get, yet this model feels better still. The short-throw gearbox is so accurate that it just seems to fall into gear as soon as you push the clutch. Meanwhile, the steering is so nicely weighted and responsive that you feel comfortable with this car’s limits as soon as you jump in.
As many petrolheads are aware, Honda has a history of making VTEC performance engines that deliver their best hit of power at the top end of the rev range. Which, as luck would have it, is ideal for exhilarating track driving. Hondas may have previously come in second on the road where mid-range and bottom end grunt provides an advantage, but let loose on a track and VTEC Hondas will come alive.
Better still, the latest Honda Civic Type R overcomes this low-end performance issue with a 2.0-litre VTEC four-cylinder engine equipped with a meaty turbocharger. The result is a maximum 316bhp, and 400Nm of torque with a load of mid-range performance as well as a screaming top end. Enough to see the Civic Type R crack 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 169mph.
Honda has also introduced a new performance data logger for their hot hatch called LogR. It syncs the Type R’s onboard computer and sensors with a smartphone app to record driving data and help improve your driving skills on the track.
Also, there is the super satisfying short-throw gearshift, and a +R button that makes the already firm dampers firmer by 30 per cent, increases throttle response and weights up the steering. All this combines to make it one of the best handling front-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks.
This homologation hero is somewhat of a throwback to the '80s and '90s era of motorsport-derived performance cars for the road. Maybe more suited to a gravel rally stage than smooth track tarmac, we just couldn't leave out one of the most interesting cars Toyota has produced in quite some time.
The bespoke 1.6-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine produces 257bhp and 360Nm of torque, with a six-speed manual transmission and a four-wheel-drive system which features three individual modes: Normal gives you a 70:30 torque split, Sport switches to a 30:70 set-up, while Track is 50:50.
The claimed 0-62mph time of 5.5s and a 143mph maximum speed actually doesn't do Toyota's pocket rocket justice - it's spectacularly quick point-to-point with enough poise, power and balance to embarrass some supercars. A few have bemoaned the high driving position, but that's pretty much the worst of the GR's foibles. It really is a car to recommend.
New or used, there is little else that can offer such an enticing blend of performance, value and fun driving than the Ford Fiesta ST - all wrapped up in a usable package that you can drive easily to and from the track.
It's another sensational three-pot machine, although a 1.5-litre unit this time producing 197bhp and good for 0-62mph in 6.5s. The power feels exciting enough to keep even the keenest of drivers interested, while the Performance Pack brings launch control, shift lights and a limited-slip differential to maximise the hot hatch thrills.
The ST starts from around £22,000 and is, rather unusually, available as a three- or five door model which adds to its appeal as a track tool that you can also use on a daily basis.
10. Ariel Atom
Powered by a 320bhp mid-mounted Honda Civic engine, the Atom feels like a big go-kart due to its exposed skeletal chassis. It’s an absolute hoot on a track day; just don’t forget a helmet and waterproofs.
In the quest for added usability, the skeletal track car has gained a windscreen over the years, so now there’s no need to wear shatterproof goggles or a crash helmet every time you pop to the shops!
Want to drive your car on a racing circuit? Undo three bolts and the windscreen lifts off, along with the wiper motor and washer bottle, all in one movement.
Sitting low in the thin plastic seats, buffeting is reduced around the driver’s head, but the lack of bodywork means it’s as draughty as ever once the pace quickens. The surprise is that despite its aftermarket conception, the screen has been integrated seamlessly into the styling.
In fact, the overall build quality is a notch above a Caterham. Simon Saunders, founder of the firm, is a former employee of Aston Martin, and it shows in the attention to detail. Touches like the tachometer needle glowing red as you approach the limiter, and the uncluttered footwell and dash, are an unexpected surprise.
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