The hunt for a new daily
Having purchased my dream Jaguar XJ40 in 2016, I always intended on running two cars as I didn’t want to use the big cat as a daily. I wanted to spare it the short trips to the supermarket and hauling kit to and from work. I needed something small, nippy and fun but also cheap to run, as I didn’t really have the finances for two money pits.
I can’t remember exactly how the Ignis Sport came to my attention but I just thought it was a pretty smart little Japanese hot hatch that was dirt cheap even for a low mileage example. It seemed to tick all the boxes, Jap reliability, small but revy engine, cheap purchase price and low running costs. So once again the search engines were fired into action to find the right car. I really wanted a yellow car, as that is the colour Suzuki used for their works S1600 JWRC team (I’m a sucker for motorsport links).
I first went to visit a black car near Manchester but unfortunately, someone had got there before me and the car had been sold. It wasn’t long before I found another one worth checking out, this time near Stoke, so I headed down the M6 in the Jag, hoping this time I wouldn’t be beaten to it. Upon arriving I couldn’t help but smile just looking at it, it’s the type of plucky underdog that reminded me of my classic Mini Cooper but the polar opposite of my XJ40 land yacht parked next to it.
After taking it out on a test drive, I remember not being blown away by anything in particular but what a great job Suzuki did at building the car to such a low price point. For under £10k new, you don’t expect luxurious materials, monster power or fancy technology. Instead they spent the money to perfectly meet the design brief, a reliable revy engine, Recaro seats, discs all round, Enkei wheels and a body kit that lets you know there’s a link to its world rally programme. I bought the car there and then and arranged to pick it up the week after.
Getting carried away and starting the track day prep
After over a year of happy motoring, the urge to get some more track days under my belt hit hard. The car had been perfect, doing the commute to work and the run to the shops without driving me insane with boredom but I had a decision to make. Adding a third car to the fleet, a purpose built track car wasn’t really practical and funds wouldn’t allow for that. There was only one choice, to go hardcore and track prep the daily driver!
From the get go this car has always been about maximising a shoe string budget and so that ideology continued. Searches were saved on eBay for second hand seats, harnesses and other essentials but in the meantime, I did what everyone does first and stripped out the interior. The rear seats were the first things to be ditched, along with the carpet and then the seatbelts making way for some red TRS 5 point harnesses from eBay (of which a lot of this car has been sourced from). From factory the Ignis is already a light car tipping the scales at 910kg or there abouts but getting in the 800’s is quite an achievement for a car made in the 2000’s.
A set of OZ Superturismo WRC white wheels came next that looked like they’d never been used and were quickly wrapped in Toyo R888R’s. I’d then found a pair of Cobra Suzuka Pro Fit seats that looked a bit shabby and were missing the seat cushions, the price reflected this but a quick search found you could buy them separate for next to nothing so although they needed tidying they were a bargain. After re spraying the seat shells black came the task of fitting them in the car. Now I don’t know if anyone has done this before but it proved a nightmare. I bought some fixed mounts to bolt the seats to the floor but as the front wheel drive Ignis shares the same body as the four wheel drive model, there’s a transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car that takes away a lot of space. It took a lot of fiddling to get them both in and even more fiddling to get the drivers seat in a comfortable position for me (washers were used).
With the interior done I moved on to brakes, here I chose EBC yellow stuff pads and groved discs all round which improved stopping power tenfold. (fun fact, the Ignis sport rear brake pads are the same as the Mazda RX8!) The latest upgrade has been a Tegiwa alloy EG Civic radiator and wiring in of a temperature gauge as the car only comes with a red or blue light indicating wether the engine is hot or cold but who knows exactly what temperature they come on or off at?! Im hoping to get the car to a point where I can bounce it off the limiter all day on track and only have to worry about tyres.
What the future holds
I’ve already been to three track days at Blyton Park, Anglesey and Cadwell Park with another one booked at Oulton Park for November. All have been an absolute blast, battling it out with more powerful machinery and the mighty Ignis punched well above its weight.
Living in the north west of England means travelling a fair bit to get to circuits and the lack of straight line grunt in the Ignis rules out a lot of bigger tracks. Once I’ve exhausted all the shorter venues I intend to move up to something like an EP3 Civic Type R, something with a better aftermarket parts supply and a more capable base for tuning yet still reasonably cheap and reliable. What I’d like to think I’ve done with this little car is prove you can still have fun on track with a very small budget, around £1500 for the car and around £1000 for wheels, tyres, seats, harnesses etc. So for those thinking you need a purpose built car and a pit crew, take the plunge and start cheap, if the bug bites, the skies your limit (or bank balance!) I hope to see you all on track soon!