For those of you that have been following me on the website or my Instagram account, you’ll probably know what happened to my previous track car. In short, for those who don’t, it ended up on its roof at Knockhill. If you haven’t already, check out my blog where I go through what happened.
The car has now been stripped of everything that’s worth selling and many of the parts have already found new homes, giving more Ignis Sport’s a new lease of life. But where does that leave me? I’m now without a dedicated track car and considering my other two cars are a classic Jag and a diesel Audi A2 it’s not like I can use them on my upcoming track day at Oulton Park in October!
For the first time, I’m now in a position to select a car specifically for the purpose of driving on track. Previous cars I’d taken were unmodified road cars and the Ignis was almost track prepped by accident. This means I can choose a car that fits my desired criteria.
Many of you given the choice, would likely go down the turbo route and find a car and engine combination that could take big power but I’ll stake my case for natural aspiration.
Throttle response. One of the keys to being fast on track is to be as smooth with your inputs as possible, any jarring movements can unsettle the car resulting in lost time. For those of us who have slightly less talent than Lewis Hamilton, a naturally aspirated car can be easier to control on the limit. In a turbocharged car there is often a delay from when you press the pedal to when the car actually begins accelerating and often a spike in torque delivery. In a non turbo car the response is instantaneous with a linear power curve. Now, there are adjustments you can make to your driving style which can help this but as discussed before, we are very much still learning at this racing game, so using my admittedly small brain power for getting the braking points right, hitting those apexes and maximising speed on corner exits is priority.
Reliability. Those of you who know me, know the thought of losing driving time to crawling underneath a car getting oily, will keep me up at night. I’ve just not got the patience for anything that involves fiddling with a spanner. With that in mind, the less complex nature of a naturally aspirated engine is more appealing than a turbo with its extra hoses, oil lines and intercoolers. There’s more to go wrong and the temptation to crank the boost up that touch too far can be hard to resist. Heat management can also become a concern in tightly packed engine bays, the car could be running for prolonged periods of time at high rpm and while it’s always important to check the gauges, you don’t want your eyes glued to them.
Finally, I get my kick out of revs. I’m just a sucker for a high revving engine. To me, the V10, naturally aspirated, 20,000rpm screamer F1 engines will always be better than the more powerful turbo V6 hybrid units. There’s more drama, more emotion and that’s what we’re all after in motorsport right?
Not always something that comes up with discussions about track cars and if I had a big budget, it wouldn’t but unfortunately that’s not the case. I don’t have a trailer and I don’t even have a suitable tow car for starters. This means everything I need for the day has to fit in the car I’ll be driving up in. Everything from spare tyres, tool kits, spare fluids, folding canopy and suitcases for hotel stays, all need to be bundled in the boot. All this points me right in the direction of a hot hatch.
Cheap to maintain
Having something that’ll monster a circuit one weekend and need it’s engine and gearbox rebuilt the next, is not something I can afford, let alone be bothered with! Two ton monsters that eat through consumables like tyres, brake pads and brake discs after half a day are off the menu too, meaning any potential car is going to have to be relatively lightweight. A thorough service between track days is what I want, anymore than that and it starts to get unmanageable, especially when you have an old Jag in the driveway that’s constantly crying for attention (money)!
A good platform to make serious modifications with
The aim of this car is to be able to make it faster as my ability grows. I need to be able to future proof the car and not run into the problem of outgrowing it’s capabilities after a few years. I’d also like to have the adjustment to tailor the car to my driving style and have a play with what works on different tracks and in different conditions.
Good aftermarket support and parts availability
I learned my lesson with the Ignis for this one. While parts were available, there just wasn’t the depth of kit offered for other cars and that really put a limit on how far you could take the car. The new car needs to have plenty of upgrade parts available for both engine and chassis development and preferably on offer within the UK, meaning no need to ship from overseas. It would also be nice to continue using second hand parts on eBay and save money in that respect like I did with certain parts on the Ignis.
Cheap to buy
You can see the theme here, cost rears it’s ugly head in almost every category but this is the real world we live in. I’m a lorry driver, not the CEO of a tech company. My budget is around £3000. For that I’m looking at cars with sub 100k miles, full service history and in good solid mechanical condition but accepting of the bodywork having the odd scuff or imperfection. Buying something that needs work to get it running is out of the question, as money will have to be spent straight away to get the car track prepared, so the less I spend sorting out previous issues the better.
The target car
So what do we have, a reliable, naturally aspirated, hot hatch that is relatively cheap to maintain, has potential to develop into a quick car as my ability on track grows, good aftermarket support and easy parts availability for under £3000. an impossible task? We’ll have to wait and see. I’ve got a house move to deal in the coming weeks but after that I’ll be getting out there and viewing some cars.
What would you buy? And would you change any of the criteria? Let me know!