This is a strange time to be a car lover or a driving enthusiast. The conversation throughout the automotive industry is so dominated by talk of self-driving cars and electric vehicles that it sometimes feels as though our modest little hobby is under attack.
And yet you might in fact say there has never been a better time to be a petrolhead. The track day culture in the UK and across mainland Europe is more vibrant now than ever before and new track-ready cars seem to arrive every other week. Meanwhile, second-hand track cars can be picked up for buttons. It has never been easier to get involved in grassroots motorsport, and if you are prepared to travel just a little, our occasionally sun-drenched island is home to some of the best driving roads in Europe.
The automotive landscape is changing around us, but there is still plenty of room to play. This is your guide to having fun on four wheels without breaking the bank.
Track day cars:
No traffic jams, no speed bumps, no HGVs, no tractors and no speed limits. Race circuits let you really wring a car out and a suitable chariot can be yours for £1000
CATERHAM SEVEN £10,000:
Burning through tyres and brake pads does mean the cost of track driving can build up. This is where extremely lightweight track cars come in. At no more than 600kg, a Caterham Seven simply doesn’t seem to use its consumables. The other advantage of Caterham’s flyweight sports car is that it holds its value remarkably well.
So well, in fact, that £10,000 will only stretch to a 15- or 20-year-old car (although that hardly seems to matter when the basic Seven design is more than half a century old). These cars are usually weekend playthings, so there are lots of low-mileage examples for sale.
RENAULTSPORT CLIO 172 £1000:
That Porsche 911 GT3 RS might well come flying past you every five laps, but the satisfaction will be all yours. After all, your entire track day car cost you less than the price of a set of tyres for the GT3 RS. And should you suffer a mechanical failure or misjudge your line into a demanding corner and end up gently interfacing with a tyre barrier, you’ll simply laugh it off.
Bargain-basement track day driving might just be the most entertaining sort. The car that ignited Renaultsport’s hot hatch hegemony in the modern era has the kind of edgy handling balance that’ll keep you smiling all day long.