► Life with a road-legal racing car
► We run - and race - a Ginetta G40
► No ABS, no driver aids, no nonsense
Month 11 running a Ginetta G40 GRDC: the conclusion to our long-term test
Since the Ginetta’s left my care and gone back to a life of hard racing, and hard knocks, I’m yet to drive anything that feels quite like it. I miss the wriggly unassisted steering, the equally wriggly handling, and the faint aroma of fibreglass in my clothes.
The G40 was designed to be a racing car first and a road car second, but I really did drive it to and from work when I could (and loved every mile), regularly filled the 200-litre boot with shopping and drove another all but identical G40 to Le Mans and back.
Downsides? Posting yourself through the rollcage isn’t the work of a moment; our car’s latest rack design gave it Lotus-beating steering feel but a shocking turning circle; and non-existent ventilation meant the cockpit was hot like a sauna in summer and steamed up like one in the wet (not helped by our G40’s ‘race-spec’ dashboard, without the optional vents and air-con system). And with the throaty throttle-bodied Zetec engine bolted straight into the tubular chassis, and the composite body panels likewise, it’s unsurprisingly a tad noisy. Our gnarly race car missed out on the optional Touring Pack’s sound deadening kit, which was fitted to the G40 I drove to Le Mans (you can read the full account further down this page), and did make it marginally more tolerable – it’s quieter than a Caterham, at least.
Upsides? Standing on the top step of the podium at Silverstone was one. We couldn’t run a race car without racing it, after all, and for one dream weekend we not only competed in the Silverstone round of the Ginetta Racing Drivers’ Club (GRDC) series with the want2race team but somehow managed to win both races too. If you’re trackside this season you might spot our old G40 out there in its continued life with want2race. I’ll be watching wistfully from the stands.
That’s the whole point of the G40 GRDC, of course; its circa £40k entry price is a package deal, with a season’s racing, testing and extra-curricular events thrown in. Keeping the car at the end is intended to be the icing on the cake. Click here to read CAR's original first drive review of the Ginetta G40 GRDC.
Driving it on track isn’t easy. It really is quite frisky, the G40. Ginetta’s head of sales (and factory GT3 driver) Mike Simpson reckons its as challenging to get the best from as any racing car you’ll ever drive, and I don’t doubt him. To be completely honest, it’s a little bit scary at the limit. But that’s kind of the point; its knife-edge handling is hugely rewarding, and you’d get more from a track day in the built-for-the-purpose G40 than in a brake-wilting, tyre-melting supercar.
And if keeping the car at the end of the season is a bonus, it’s a pretty good one. Away from the track (we also took the G40 for a Brands Hatch trackday, some flying laps of Daytona MK’s kart circuit and even turned it into a BTCC safety car for a weekend), it’s one of the most involving cars I’ve driven on the road. Who cares that a diesel warm hatch would leave it for dead in a straight line? You’re having too much fun to care, and it can destroy all-comers in the corners anyway. We had the adjustable dampers softened a touch but the anti-roll bars in their track setting, and it suited Brit B-roads beautifully, cornering flat yet never once grounding. Speed bumps were no bother, either.
And everyone wants to stop and chat. I made friends at every petrol station I stopped at (which was quite a few, since the fuel gauge is so pessimistic). There’s just something irresistibly likeable about the G40, from the cutely retro styling to the oddly rebellious sensation of driving a racing car on the road. Every journey feels like some kind of defiant stand for driving freedom. More than anything, it makes you feel glad that cars like this exist, and are still allowed to. If I had a spare £40k…
By James Taylor
Month 10 running a Ginetta: Back to the want2race finals
I’m in mourning, as the Ginetta’s time with us has come to an end. In a neat bit of symmetry, we said goodbye at the want2race competition final, where our G40 was one of the cars flung around Bedford Autodrome by the finalists in a nail-biting Olympic pursuit-format showdown.
Fast-lapping engineer Phil Ingram fended off a strikingly talented group of drivers to win this year’s prize, a fully funded drive for the 2016 GRDC season. He’s in for a fantastic year. I’m jealous. Full goodbye report next month.
By James Taylor
Month 9 running a Ginetta G40 Club car: definitely not an autonomous car
The nicest thing about driving the G40 on the road is that you actually drive it. You’ll need both hands on the wheel to keep the darty steering in check, so checking your phone is out of the question, there’s no electronic stability safety net to catch you if you slip in the wet, and the unassisted brakes need a proper press, so you actually need to look where you’re going. If everyone drove a Ginetta G40 the roads would be a safer place, I reckon.
By James Taylor
Month 8 running a Ginetta G40 GRDC: in the details
We've enjoyed loads of fun and even some success in our Ginetta racer, but is it a road car too? The answer's in the details:
Putting in the boot
The 200-litre boot’s actually bigger than our long-term Twingo’s. Weekly shops, suitcases and a guitar have gone in with space to spare. It’ll take a golf bag, too, a design attribute reputedly specified personally by Ginetta boss Lawrence Tomlinson.
Take the wheel
An immobiliser’s standard and the doors do lock, but it’s probably safe to say the G40’s greatest crime-fighting trick is its removable steering wheel. Take it with you, Mr Bean style, or lock it in the boot. Just don’t lose the key.
Stability control? You’re looking at it
G40s were once wingless, but as the GRDC car’s MX-5-sourced gearbox shunts the weight distribution rearwards, early development cars proved a tad frisky under braking. The spoiler’s an effective cure, stuck on to stick the back end in place.
There’s no ABS, but good luck locking these in the dry. The pedal needs a good old shove (there’s no servo assistance), but you can punch it as hard and as late as you dare – the G40’s 880kg doesn’t take much stopping.
By James Taylor
Ginetta G40 GRDC diary notes: Leeds to La Sarthe - the great Le Mans adventure
Since I’m typing this in the depths of winter and summer seems a very long way away, it feels like a good moment to rewind to the June sunshine and one of the most epic expeditions of my 2015.
Apart from the car and the racing, one of the perks of the £36k-ish Ginetta Racing Drivers Club (GRDC) package is an invitation to join the Ginetta crew and friends on their annual road trip to Le Mans. Travel in convoy from the Ginetta factory in Yorkshire, stay in the grounds of a picturesque chateau near the circuit, eat your own weight in barbecue food, and possibly watch some of the racing too – what’s not to like?
When Ginetta offered the chance to tag along in a G40 identical to ours, but fitted with a few of the options our long-termer misses out on (namely, air-con and the Touring Pack - sound deadening, carpets, even a cup holder), how could we say no?
So, a smart white ’n’ orange G40 GRDC and I duly join the convoy at very-early-o’clock as it passes Peterborough, round the corner from CAR HQ. Six Ginetta G40s (almost all of which driven by current GRDC and GRDC+ drivers), two mid-engined Ginetta G60s, plus a couple of interloping Aston Martins and a Noble M12 GTO, it’s quite a line-up. Dover’s reached without drama but my ever-unreliable sense of direction sees me miss an exit within minutes of leaving Calais, losing touch with the convoy. Luckily GRDC+ driver Shawn Fleming’s done exactly the same thing, so we form our own miniature slipstreaming pursuit, travelling as fast as we dare to catch the main peloton, with my iPhone plugged in to the 12V socket in the centre console acting as navigator.
As a couple of hundred autoroute miles tick by, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the differences between the Touring Pack-equipped car and our more Spartan long-termer. The extra sound deadening definitely makes a difference. In our G40 you avoid cats’ eyes like landmines, because that’s what they sound like when you run over one. In the Touring Pack car they’re more of a muted thud. It’s still not exactly a car you’d describe as quiet, but you can just about hold a conversation below motorway speeds – something that’s simply not possible in our car. The dashboard’s flock finish rather than the bare fibreglass of our long-termer also helps, although it’s a magnet for dust. There’s some attractive extra carbonfibre trim too, very neatly finished, and not just by the standards of a low-volume car designed for motorsport.
Like our G40, the fuel gauge adopts a tank-nearly-empty philosophy at all times, so although the 45-litre safety cell should manage around 200 miles of motorway running from full, my paranoia sees us stop to fill up at practically every other station we come to. That and the seats; although the fabric-covered FIA-spec buckets are actually surprisingly comfortable over a long distance, as with any fixed-back shell you do feel the need to get out and stretch pretty frequently. The G40, a third of the size of a typical road car and complete with orange Union Jack on the roof, draws a crowd every time we stop. One lady declares it ‘magnifique.’
We catch the convoy in time for the final stretch to the chateau, mingling with increasingly exotic cars as we draw nearer to the circuit; Esprits, Corvettes, a Zenos E10, even a Brit-registered Porsche 918 Spyder, all bound for La Sarthe.
Ginetta boss (and former Le Mans class winner) Lawrence Tomlinson has the right idea. He’s flown in by helicopter, then uses a classic Ginetta G10 stowed in the race truck (along for the ride with Ginetta’s LMP3 car, at Le Mans for a pre-weekend test session) to travel around on the ground. That’s the way to do it. Beer in hand, it’s a chance to chat properly with the GRDC drivers I met at Silverstone earlier in the year. Many have done trackdays and owned exciting road cars previously, but none had done any racing before. All now appear hooked on the sport. Ginetta engineer Kev Whittaker describes the nervousness in the drivers’ eyes before their first qualifying session of the season, and then broad grins afterwards. ‘It’s very rewarding,’ he smiles.
On the Friday, three Ginettas from the convoy form part of the drivers’ parade through Le Mans town centre, lined with hordes of hard-drinking race fans. As the race drivers ride ahead in open-topped classic cars (Porsche’s Mark Webber in particular is mobbed by autograph hunters), we follow in two G40s and a G60, sandwiched between a Zagato Mostro and a Porsche 918. With tickertape falling from the sky and cheering crowds leaning over the barriers on either side, imploring each car to ‘burnout, burnout!’ it’s quite an experience.
It’s a sweltering summer afternoon, and since we’re either stationary or at a crawl for much of the two-hour parade as the Le Mans drivers stop on each street for interviews and autographs, the temperature gauge, which hasn’t budged all trip, begins to climb skywards. My co-driver, GRDC competitor Colin Plumb, and I valiantly decide to cook ourselves rather than the engine by turning the heater and the fans to full blast. When we emerge, in the shadow of the town’s cathedral, we proudly tell the Ginetta team how carefully we’ve looked after the car. They’re dismayed that we didn’t do any proper burnouts. Apparently the best way to do it is with a bit of lock on, to unload one of the driven wheels. ‘Don’t worry,’ says factory driver, Mike Simpson, reassuringly. ‘You weren’t to know.’
Next year’s trip will be all the more exciting as Ginetta will be back racing in the 24 hours in the LMP2 prototype class. Le Mans, so the saying goes, is a great British holiday organised by the French. Seems the only way to go one better is to go to the race as part of a trip organised from Yorkshire.
Click here for CAR's story of the 2015 Le Mans 24 hours, in 24 photographs
By James Taylor
Month 7 running a Ginetta G40 GRDC: training times
I took the G40 back to Silverstone this month, and drove flat-out around the GP circuit again. Sort of. I’ve been for a spot of simulator training at iZone Performance, a kind of driver perfection laboratory tucked away in Silverstone’s technology park. Sim work’s only a component part of what the iZone centre’s all about; co-founded by international Touring Car winning machine Andy Priaulx, it aims to turn quick drivers into winning ones by setting to work on everything from balance and motor control to nutrition and interpersonal skills.
After a crack at some of the harder-than-it-looks reflex-testing equipment in the gym area (designed to train everything from brake-pressure feel to peripheral vision), I find myself inside one of iZone’s high-tech simulators wearing a fetching pair of eye-tracking glasses. I’m driving a virtual Ginetta, just like the one I arrived at iZone in, on a virtual Silverstone – the same layout the G40 and I won races on for real just a few months ago (CAR, August).
I think iZone commercial director Neil Riddiford probably realised he’d perhaps coached higher-calibre hotshoes than me when I blundered into the end of the pitwall within seconds of setting off. ‘Without wishing to be rude,’ he says, gently, ‘I think perhaps you’re treating this too much like a game…’ Because rather than some kind of epic PlayStation, the simulator at iZone is a training tool, first and foremost. Take the eye-tracking software. You know those drivers who bumble around fixated on the corner they’re in, rather than the one ahead? Turns out I’m one of them. ‘We’re programmed to aim our vision low,’ Riddiford explains. ‘When we’re walking we’re looking for obstacles, at school we’re trained to look at our desk, on the road we’re watching for brakelights and potholes.’ He aims a laser pointer at where my focus should be, and it’s rarely lower than the horizon line. Rather than looking at a corner’s apex, I’m X-raying through bridge parapets and grandstands towards sections of track that aren’t even in view yet. And here’s the thing – I’m a full 2.5sec quicker on the lasered lap than before. Yes, Silverstone GP’s a long circuit and I’m still getting used to the simulator, but it’s startling stuff nonetheless. Riddiford likens it to switching from dipped beam to high beam at night on the road.
That’s not the only revelation of the session. Suggesting I’m overthinking things, he asks me to call out letters from the alphabet at random while I drive. The result? My second-fastest lap of the session. Bizarre. ‘Our subconscious knows how to drive,’ he says. ‘Quite often you may drive home and barely remember any of the journey. Sometimes we can go faster when we don’t think about it.’
I’ve never been so keen to stay in a classroom, but the G40 and I had another appointment. In a genius moment of tenuous link-building, want2race competition organiser Ben suggested I retrace the steps a typical entrant would take – all get an iZone session, and the majority qualify at a major karting centre. So I was headed to Daytona Milton Keynes for a track session with a difference. How many times have you been at a kart circuit and imagined driving a car around it? Or whether one would even fit?
If any car’s going to feel at home on a miniaturised track, it’s our Lilliputian G40. Turns out it relishes it, in fact. Daytona’s flowing 1360m layout is larger than you’d think, enough to get some serious weight transfer going on in the quicker corners, snick third gear on the back straight and even, once I’d got over the fear of bumping into any barriers, use the locking diff to slide around a bit. Brilliant. Chance also to explore a long-held theory of mine: that any kart (even a lawnmower-engined rental jobbie) will be quicker round a small circuit than any car (even a darty racing one). Slick tyres and ant-spec centre-of-gravity beats horsepower any day, surely? Well, bang goes that one. I went around two seconds slower in a brief run in one of Daytona’s have-a-go four-strokes than I did on my best lap in the Ginetta. Not the most scientific of tests, admittedly; I was being extra careful in the car, and only had time for a handful of laps in the kart. A great endorsement of the G40’s nimbleness though. And if I’d only thought of calling out a few random letters while lapping, it might have gone quicker…
By James Taylor
Month 6 running a Ginetta G40: safety first
A spot of roof-mounted moonlighting for our Ginetta earlier this summer, as it became an official British Touring Car Championship safety car at Oulton Park. Every BTCC event includes a cast of support races, each with their own on-brand course car – a Clio for the Clio Cup, a 911 for the Porsche Carrera Cup and so on. The two Ginetta championships on the BTCC tour are no exception, hence a casting call for our G40. Numberplates off, orange roof lights on (nicely accessorised with the livery), Safety Car decals over the race numbers and hey presto, race car becomes safety car.
Apart from an excuse to blast the G40 to Cheshire and back, this little venture could answer a question I’ve pondered for some time. What does a safety car driver actually do all day? At each BTCC round that man is Scott Stringfellow, a former single-seater racer and a safety car pilot for 11 years. ‘I feel I’m a quicker driver now than I was when I was racing,’ he says. ‘Because I’ve got used to driving in really crap weather. Part of my job is to read the track, feel the grip, and advise race control if a corner’s dangerous so they can stop the race or put it back.’ He and co-driver Pete Harris (who operates the radio, acting as the go-between between Scott and race control) spend each race weekend leaping between four different course cars, under the cosh of ever-tightening TV coverage timings.
Our car’s job was to lead the Ginetta Supercup and Ginetta Juniors (G40s almost identical to ours, driven by ambitious, fearsomely quick 14 to 17 year-olds) to the grid ahead of each race, and stand by to be scrambled in the event of a serious accident. ‘There’s no way of predicting if we’ll be called out,’ says Scott. ‘Some weekends we’re out all the time, some hardly at all. But it’s rare we never get out all…’ True to form, in the final Ginetta Junior race of the day our G40 gets its moment of glory leading the pack after a hefty (happily non-injurous) car-barrier interfacing moment. The race finished under the safety car so, not for the first time this year, our G40 crossed the line first. I felt oddly proud.
By James Taylor
Month 5 running a Ginetta G40: taking the low road
A consequence of driving a car as low and generally dinky as the G40 is that other traffic looks positively massive. Everything seems a size or two up from reality; a Corsa looks like a Mokka, a 5-series a 7-series, a Range Rover a block of flats.
Far from feeling too low, you wonder what everyone else is doing up there so high. It’s easy to read the road from down here, but also to feel more in touch with it. Sitting lower definitely heightens your senses.
By James Taylor
Month 4 running a Ginetta G40 Club car: changing places
Once more to the racetrack, only this time in the passenger seat. Our G40 was pressed into service at a qualification stage for the want2race competition at Donington Park, with six novice drivers taking to the wheel in the hope of making it through to the contest’s final in October (where one will win a fully funded season in next year’s Ginetta Racing Drivers Club series).
As a veteran of last year’s comp I’m cast as an expert, so clutching a clipboard, an intercom and tight control over my better judgement, I shared instructing duties with want2race director Ben Hyland. The brief was to assess the entrants not on outright pace but on smoothness, car control and, above all, potential. Of which they had plenty. Some were returning finalists from last year, others committed trackday regulars and some had done only indoor karting, but all were enthusiastic and, thankfully, didn’t seem hell-bent on trying to kill me. It’s an interesting sensation, experiencing Donington’s rollercoaster contours at pace with someone else at the controls. One that’s actually quite revealing, too – even from the passenger seat I was learning lessons about the G40’s abilities. I’d forgotten just how late, and hard, you can brake without locking its front tyres, and how much speed it can carry into a corner, even on its road-spec Michelins. Its limits, although very high, tend to be knife-edge; when it does let go, it doesn’t always give you much warning. Still, I only had one near-death experience down Craner Curves. I’d call that a success.
Amusingly, everyone was a picture of studied seriousness and suppressed nerves when they climbed into the car for their run, and beaming smiles when they emerged. I felt the same way at the end of the day. The car had turned out to be nearly as much fun from the left seat as from the right. The standards were high. It’s going to be a tough-fought final.
By James Taylor
Month 3 running a Ginetta G40 GRDC: let's race!
You can’t run a long-term race car without actually racing it. So, armed with nothing but enthusiasm, off we went to Silverstone. This is the story of what happened next...
This isn’t the start to the weekend I’d hoped for. Caught in the grip of a rainstorm, Silverstone is doing a passable impression of an ice rink and the G40’s cockpit mimics a steaming kettle as a vision-blocking mist works its way across the screen. It’s the Friday test day ahead of the second round of the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club series, and I’m fumbling around the GP circuit’s 3.7 miles because the weekend’s two races will feature an extra driver on the grid – me. Well, with a racing car on the fleet, not actually racing it would be missing the point, surely? Right now, though, I’m considering forging a sick note for tomorrow. When a red flag curtails our solitary test session, I’ve completed at most five laps, and at least one spin. Judging by today’s efforts, the GRDC regulars won’t have much to fear.
Regulars is a relative term here, as the GRDC is specifically for newcomers to motorsport, bundling an eight-race series at four tracks (on the British GT support bill) with a road-legal, race-ready G40 Club car like ours. It’s strictly for beginners, so for the majority of the field this will be the second race weekend they’ve ever done. Me too; I’ve done one race meeting last year, also in a Ginetta, thanks to the want2race competition (an open-to-all initiative that awards one lucky novice the chance to go racing – last year, somehow, that was me). So in theory we’re on an even footing. Ginetta offers mechanical support at the races if GRDC competitors want it, but our car’s being tended to directly by the want2race team, principally founder/driver Ben Hyland and set-up guru Danny Chipper. Hence the car’s bright new livery since it last appeared in these pages. To add a little bit of pressure Ben’s racing it this weekend too, in the separate GRDC+ championship (same cars, but experienced drivers and semi-slick tyres). I’d better not bend it then.
Mercifully, Saturday dawns dry. Sunny, even. Ben heads out for GRDC+ qualifying and returns with pole position in the bag. So I can’t blame the car. Running out of excuses, I join 19 other G40s clad with novice crosses in the assembly area for GRDC qualifying. Many of them have made the journey to Silverstone on the road – all GRDC-spec G40s are road-legal, 4 after all. Some of the drivers are seasoned trackday-goers, some had never ventured onto a circuit before this year. All of them are friendly and encouraging. And then a marshall is waving us onto the circuit and we’re all trying to find the fastest route around the vast Silverstone GP layout.
It’s a lot more fun in the dry. I’ve passed two cars ahead and they’re growing smaller in the mirrors, which can only be a good sign. Danny hangs out the pitboard as I start my third lap. Amazingly, if I’ve read it right, it says P2. That’s an even better sign.
There’s still time in the car, though. To go quickly in a G40 it needs to be moving around ever so slightly, always in the beginnings of a slide, and I can’t quite find the confidence to allow it to. There’s time for one more lap, and I chide myself to brake a bit later, carry a bit more speed and generally be a bit less of a wimp. Session over, we’re funnelled down the pitlane and into parc fermé for scrutineering and story swapping. Ben and Danny look happy. So do I when I find out why. Turns out that last lap did the trick: incredibly, I’m on pole.
We’ve also had a light ticking off. Entry logistics mean Ben and I need different numbers on the car for our respective races, and our Blue Peter black tape efforts are judged more abstract art than legible characters. By the time I’m lining up on the grid for the first race, the G40’s wearing a mix of fonts – not stylish, but readable enough to give the scorekeepers a fighting chance.
I’m starting alongside Adrian Campbell-Smith, winner of both the opening GRDC races at Rockingham. Under the advice that wheelspin is the lesser evil to bogging down, I give it plenty of revs off the line and it works – I get to Copse first. So happy am I about this that I relax and take the sweeping Maggots and Becketts combo so leisurely that Adrian simply drives alongside me down Hangar Straight, then braves it out round the outside of the fast right-hander at Stowe to retake the lead. If I’m going to uphold our car’s honour I’ll have to find a way to re-pass him. The following lap he makes a small mistake through Becketts and the situation’s reversed – we go side-by -side through Stowe for the second time in two laps, this time with me on the outside. Adrian very sportingly leaves me plenty of room and I emerge ahead – I’m leading a race on a Grand Prix circuit in our long-termer. It’s quite a feeling.
When I manage to stop watching the mirrors I begin to relax and – here’s the thing – actually enjoy it. I progressively pull out a lead and, after 15 minutes and six laps (it’s a long track), cross the line first. This has gone rather better than I’d expected. There’s a podium ceremony with trophies, Ginetta-branded champagne (‘Product de Yorkshire’ it says on the label; nice touch) and, to my horror, an interview over the circuit tannoy (and, later, another for TV). Ben’s also won the first GRDC+ race, after a tense battle with another former want2race winner, Rob Keogh, so the car’s had a clean sweep of poles, wins and fastest laps today. Things can only go downhill from here.
To that end, Sunday arrives freezing cold and – gulp – very wet. GRDC cars run on the same Michelin road tyres in all weathers, rather than the expensive racing wets I rather wish were bolted on instead. The grid’s decided by yesterday’s race, so Adrian and I share the front row again. This time he leads into the first corner after I get over-excited, sky the revs and sit with the rear wheels spinning. His car’s slipping and sliding but ours feels reassuringly planted; however Danny’s set it up, it’s working.
There’s more fun, fair dicing: I have a go at outbraking Adrian into Stowe and overshoot; he has a tank-slapper slide at the Club chicane but manages to hold it. Eventually I’m able to slip past into the fiddly Arena section and build a lead to the flag. It doesn’t feel any more real the second time around. It still doesn’t. For a weekend I’ve felt like a racing driver, stood on the very podium I daydreamed about standing on when I was at school, and got a few fleeting, tantalising glimpses of how the G40 feels when its tyres are sliding in unison. This year’s want2race competition winner will do each and every round of the 2016 GRDC series. Unfortunately for yours truly, it can’t be me this time (maybe it could be you, reading this now), but I’ve been lucky to have a taste of the fun they’ll have. It’s addictive, this racing thing.
By James Taylor
A big thank you to Grove & Dean motorsport insurance for helping with insurance for the weekend.
Ginetta G40 GRDC diary notes: time for a wardrobe change
Our Ginetta looks a bit different since the last update. Smart as its original black/grey/white swoops were, they’d have looked a bit subdued on track. So before we race the car at Silverstone it’s been to Bradford-based vehicle wrapping specialists Reforma UK for a quick costume change.
A mix of matt Ginetta orange and shiny silver, we think the new livery looks rather brilliant, if a bit noisy – much like the car, in fact. It’s also been a handy opportunity to apply some prominent CAR logos to the G40’s nose and competition partners along its flanks. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous the first time I pulled up next to a police car with ‘want2race?’ writ large next to their side windows, but all I got was a smile and a thumbs up. Everyone's a fan of the Ginetta, it seems.
Stay tuned for the full report from Silverstone next month…
By James Taylor
Ginetta G40 GRDC diary notes: what's it like to drive on the road?
The G40 is a racing car first and a road car second, and Ginetta doesn’t claim anything to the contrary.
But a key part of the car’s appeal is that it is road-legal, and I really have been driving it to and from work, and hacking up and down motorways on trips further afield over the last few weeks. And going to the supermarket (see last month, below).
It’s a car that was never designed to be a daily driver, but I’m loving it. The throaty noise from the throttle-bodied engine and the instant response and feedback from the unassisted controls makes you feel a bit like you’re piloting a low-flying propeller plane. On one favourite, particularly undulating stretch of road on my route home I sometimes feel a bit like a Battle of Britain fighter pilot. It’s the perfect tonic to the overweight, overassisted and over-tyred press cars we spend most of our time in, and easily as involving as any Caterham or Elise I’ve driven.
Surprisingly practical, too. The boot’s actually bigger than the Renault Twingo’s elsewhere on CAR’s long-term fleet, it gets proper self-cancelling indicator stalks unlike the dash-mounted toggles you’d find in a Seven or Atom, and the 12V socket on the centre console usually has a charging cable for my phone plugged into it. It’s yet to scrape over any speedbumps either.
Downsides? The petrol gauge is woefully pessimistic, with a permanent tank-nearly-empty outlook on life, so you quickly learn to ignore it. After a while you also learn how to fill up without spilling petrol all over your shoes, and to close the bootlid slowly when it’s raining to avoid tipping rainwater onto your luggage. It’s all part of the learning process.
Most of all, I’m enjoying the oddly inappropriate feeling of driving a racing car on the road. Setting off for every journey feels like you’re somehow doing something you shouldn’t, making some kind of rebellious stand for driving freedom. I like this car.
By James Taylor
Month 2 running a Ginetta G40: race car vs McDonald's drive-thru
Time for the obligatory racing car with numberplates versus McDonald’s drive-thru test. Despite the turning circle of a small moon and a driving position lower than industry standard Happy Meal arm-reach the G40 passed, and even got a smile out of the staff. It’s fared better still at Tesco, where speedbumps hold no fear and the 200-litre boot can take a week’s shopping with space to spare, although I did accidentally gut one of the bags on an exposed fastener.
By James Taylor
Month 1 running a Ginetta G40 GRDC: the introduction to our long-term test
The CAR long-term test fleet is a broad church. Hybrid limo rubs shoulders with hot hatch, sports car with SUV. But the one thing it’s been missing is a racing car. Until now.
That’s because we’re going to be logging plenty of flying hours in this Ginetta G40 Club car, the house-trained, fully road-legal version of the Leeds firm’s miniature GT racer. There are various species of G40, but this one is in GRDC (Ginetta Racing Drivers Club) spec. That’s Ginetta’s all-inclusive package aimed at newcomers to motorsport, where a bit over £30k nets a taxed, road-registered G40 Club car like this one and entry to a dedicated eight-race championship to run it in, along with tuition, trackdays and various other perks. And once a GRDC driver’s got a season under their belt, and presumably been bitten hard by the motorsport bug, they can then use the same car in the level-up GRDC+ championship – similar deal, but this time with more experienced hands allowed to enter.
We’re going to get a glimpse of that experience for ourselves; we’ll race the car in a GRDC round, explore its limits under a bit less pressure in a trackday environment, and, since it’s got number plates, enjoy it on the road as much as possible. Can you do a weekly shop in a racing car? And will it be foiled by a McDonalds drive-thru? There’s only one way to find out.
We’ll also get involved in this year’s want2race competition, a search for one lucky – but talented – novice driver to win a fully funded season in the 2016 GRDC championship. We’ll be sharing the G40 with want2race, who’ll use this car to assess entrants’ driving skills in some of the competition’s qualification stages (one of which with yours truly ‘helping’ and/or whimpering from the passenger seat), and at the competition’s finale in autumn. Entries close in September - click the link above for details.
So, the car. We've reviewed the G40 GRDC elsewhere on the site (read the test here), but to recap, it’s a tiny two-seater coupe with fibreglass skin cladding a super-strong tubular steel skeleton, which doubles as an FIA-ratified rollcage. In the front there’s an 1800cc Ford Zetec engine (breathed on with Ginetta’s own sump, throttle bodies and alternator unit, taking power to 135bhp), at the back there’s a torque-biasing limited-slip diff and in the middle there’s a five-speed H-pattern manual gearbox – one of the most deliciously sweet-shifting I’ve ever used.
The GRDC-spec G40 is currently Ginetta’s only road car offering, now that the mid-engined G60 (née Farboud/Farbio) has been put on ice. We picked the car up at the company’s larger-than-you’d think, and spotlessly clean, Garforth factory, and had a good look at other G40s progressing from metal tubes on a jig to final assembly. Ginetta’s keen to big up the design’s safety credentials – after all, 14 to 17 year olds race a version of this car in the BTCC-supporting Ginetta Junior championship. And if you’ve caught any of it on TV, you’ll know they’re all a bit mad and not afraid to explore the scenery. So the chassis is 50 times stronger than it needs to be to meet MSA safety standards, and the fuel tank’s a proper FIA safety cell positioned ahead of the (actually quite reasonably sized) boot.
Ginetta offers the option of air-conditioning and a heater, along with a ‘Touring Pack’: sound deadening, carpets and neater interior trim. This is a car you could drive to the track, race and drive home again. But how many GRDC drivers actually do? Quite a few, I’m told. One GRDC+ driver put a folding awning in the boot earlier this season, drove to Oulton Park and drove home again two days later with three race wins under his belt. I’m assured others are so taken with their cars they’ve even commuted to work in them during the week. Living the dream, as they say.
Behind the removable steering wheel, you’re never in any doubt it’s a racing car first and a road car second, though. This one scores extra racing authenticity points as it’s been specced without any of the Touring Pack niceties. Like all G40s, it also does without power steering, ABS, and traction control. It’s a proper car, in short, and the ultimate antidote to the over-assisted sensory deprivation tanks we spend most of our time driving. I emerged from the first journey from Leeds to CAR’s Peterborough HQ slightly deaf, moderately sweaty and with an enormous grin. The next few months are going to be a lot of fun.
By James Taylor