► Sports car designed for one-make championship
► Aimed at newcomers to motorsport
► Race-ready but fully road-legal too
Imagine you wake up tomorrow morning and decide you absolutely have to go motor racing. Just where do you start? Even if you have unlimited funds, there’s a bewildering mass of series to choose from, and a different answer from everybody you ask for advice. The route from pipedream to pitlane is so heavily paved with complications it’s a wonder anyone ever starts a race at all.
The Ginetta Racing Drivers Club is the Leeds sports car firm’s hand-holding solution. For a smidge under £30k you get a road-legal Ginetta G40 race car (to keep) and entry to a four-round season (with two races at each) supporting the British GT championship.
Ginetta can help run the car at each round if you need a hand, and puts on a couple of track days with tuition to help get you up to speed before it all kicks off, as well as putting you through your race licence test. As all-inclusive packages go, it’s a fairly comprehensive one, and aimed squarely at people trying to find their way into the sport. It’s open to drivers with limited experience only – hardened competitors aren’t allowed.
As part of Ginetta’s cunning plan, however, there’s also a separate GRDC+ class for the same car open to more experienced drivers, so there’s a ladder in place for GRDC drivers to progress beyond their first season.
What exactly is a Ginetta G40?
An endearingly titchy two-seater coupe, with fibreglass bodywork hiding a robust tubular chassis and integrated rollcage. There are several types of G40, from the short-pedalbox, 100bhp version raced by 14-17 year olds in the Ginetta Junior championship to the 165bhp GT5 Challenge model for senior drivers.
The GRDC-spec G40 Club car sits in the middle power-wise, with around 135bhp from its 1800cc Ford Zetec engine and an MX-5-sourced H-pattern manual gearbox in place of the noisy Hewland sequential race ’box found in other species of G40, hooked up to a limited-slip diff. It runs on Michelin road tyres rather than slicks. In theory, you could drive to the track, race, and drive home again; in practice, quite a few GRDC drivers actually do.
An evolution of the original G40R road car (last seen in CAR magazine’s pages in October 2011), the Club car is essentially the company’s only road-going offering now the G60 has been put on ice. Although Ginetta might still build you a regular G40R if you really, really want, the barely pricier GRDC package makes more sense. The R was always a thinly veiled racing machine rather than an easy-going road car, after all.
What’s it like on the track?
Push the weighty hydraulic clutch home, slot the light gear lever (crooked like a crank handle for easier reach) into first and you’re away. This is a car with no power steering, no ABS and certainly no stability control. ‘It’s designed to be a car that a novice driver could take to its limit,’ says Ginetta boss Lawrence Tomlinson. ‘It teaches you how to drive, and how to drive properly.’
That it does; with a short wheelbase it’s relatively twitchy, and on road tyres it squirms around merrily under braking. It’s unnerving at first but after a while you begin to trust the car, and understand that it won’t bite. In fact, it’s a car that comes alive the harder it’s pushed. And the five-speed gearbox is a peach, so precise and forgiving you’re unlikely to miss a gear in the heat of battle.
We drove the G40 GRDC on the full Silverstone GP layout. It’s a big track for a little car, and with a relatively flat power delivery the G40 never quite feels quick in a straight line. No matter; corners are what it’s all about.
The brakes need a good old shove. They get it stopped though; with only a little over 800kg to lug around the car sheds speed very quickly, and while there’s no ABS you’d need to hit the middle pedal very hard indeed to lock a wheel.
And what’s it like on the road?
Massive fun. Yes, it is noisy – the car we drove on the road wasn’t fitted with the optional Touring Pack, which includes extra sound deadening (and carpets), but even then we’d suspect you’d need to shout to maintain conversation with a passenger. The engine’s bolted straight to the chassis, after all.
There’s plenty of space for two, however. Despite its pint-sized outward dimensions, there’s a surprising amount of room inside a G40. The FIA-spec seats have enough fore-aft slidability for the tallest and shortest of drivers, and the steering column adjusts for rake and reach. Getting in and out is the only tricky bit – posting yourself through the letterbox gap between the low roof and rollcage aperture is a manoeuvre from the more advanced chapters of a yoga textbook, the trickiness compounded by the stay-less door continually swinging shut on you.
Elsewhere on the options list is air-conditioning and a heater. Quite a large number of GRDC customers so far have specced both for road use – and some have asked for a cup-holder, too. An immobiliser is standard, but for ultimate peace of mind you could always take the steering wheel with you.
The car we drove had the anti-roll bars left in their race setting but everything else softened off, and the ride was remarkably pliant. Neither speed bumps nor steep driveways posed any problems, and the handling balance was reassuringly neutral – and fun.
While the steering in the car we tried on track was on the truckish side of heavy, the car we drove on the road was fitted with a new rack currently in development that’s just fantastic – surprisingly light yet with the feel to match any Elise or Caterham.
On the road, the G40’s a great antidote to the typically over-assisted performance cars we’ve become accustomed to. It’s raw and engaging in a way that most cars have forgotten how to be. Noisiness and planet-spec turning circle apart, it’s surprisingly usable too – you’ll fit decent-sized bags in the boot and the race seats are more comfortable than you’d think.
And on the track, it’s a perfect My First Racing Car – accessible, fun and safe. I’ve been fortunate enough to race the more powerful, sequential gearbox-equipped G40 GT5 once before, thanks to the 2014 want2race competition (www.want2race.co.uk), and the Club car’s honestly no less fun. This year’s winner of want2race will get a fully funded season in the GRDC – the jammy sod. Mind you, speaking of jamminess, this won’t be our last drive in a G40 Club car this year. Keep an eye on the long-term tests section for more Ginetta-shaped action very soon…
Click here to read about CAR’s experience racing in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge in 2014.