Track days are big business in the UK right now and more and more of us are hitting the circuits on our weekends. While you can take your normal car on the track, eventually you’re going to want to get a track car for real thrills. So, which one?
Well if you want our advice on a cheap and cheerful track day car that you can push to the limits then you could do much worse than the all-conquering Mazda MX-5. It isn’t the fastest car on the road, not even close, but the best-selling sports car of all time is the perfect entry-level track car too.
Of course you can get a full-bore racing car if you have a trailer, but that will limit the number of track days you can do and of course you can’t use the car for anything else. The car has to be road-legal, then.
There is a huge choice: from the raw and basic Ariel Atom through to the lottery winner’s choice, the LaFerrari. Of course you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re a novice then you really won’t get the most from the carbon-fibre chassis in a KTM X-Bow or the spectacular engine in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia.
You’re also likely to crash. Effectively you become a learner driver again when you take to the track, no matter how good you think you are. So before you invest huge money in a Lotus Exige, just think how upset you’ll be if you damage it beyond recognition on your first hot lap.
A Mazda MX-5 with a full MOT can be had for as little as £500 if you search for it, which gives you plenty of money to spend on extras, like a rollcage that will save your life if you flip the car. You can also buy a set of decent tyres and shock absorbers and upgrade the car as you go.
The 1.8-litre Mk1 has just 131bhp at its disposal, so don’t expect to set any lap records. With relatively skinny rear wheels, though, it’s lively enough to be fun at any speed and will teach you the essentials of over steer.
Of course the Mazda is perfectly well-behaved on the road, too, so you can drive it to the track and take it for a Sunday morning blast too. The soft-top means it’s a lot of fun, the car has bags of character and they’re bulletproof in terms of reliability.
With this being the best-selling sports car of all time, there are parts aplenty if you want to upgrade or you simply damage the car.
Of course there are other options and old VW Golfs, BMWs and others regularly see action as track day specials. But for our money, the MX-5 is the one you want.