Considering a track car, road car or both?

This is a blog of my personal opinion based on my experience as to whether you should join the 5% elite and have a 100% track focused car or do the usual thing and drive a compromise car. As i’m of a certain age I’ve owned and driven them all from being a teenager to where I am now. It seems quite obvious to me, yet not a lot of people seem to get it, or think it doesn’t apply to them, or indeed just don’t have the space or plain can’t afford it. Nothing wrong with the last reason there of course.

The article is mainly based upon N/A cars, not so much ones with forced induction, the differences on those have already been discussed in another blog, although a lot of what is written does apply to both. There are three basic types of car discussed here with their abbreviations: Road car (RC), track car (TC) and the combined road & track car (R&T car)

In a Ratneresque (you might have to look that one up, lol Google ‘Gerald Ratner’) I’m going to say I have a dislike of combined road and track cars! I’m sorry all you 95 percenters and I know it’s largely down to money, but I just do.

It’s largely to do with age and money of course, maybe your job too, but I’m lucky that I qualify for a track car, I have what is needed and I understand that others don’t have what I have, here is what you’ll need:

  • A suitable vehicle to tow your track car with and appropriate driving licence privileges. (I have a van for work purposes)
  • A trailer and somewhere to keep it. (I have a spare bit of land)
  • A garage to keep your track car in. (I’m lucky enough to have one)

The advantages of a standard or mildy modded road car is that they are comfortable, reliable, cost effective and good on fuel.

At the moment I can only think of one advantage to owning a combined R&T car and that is you can legally road test it or take it to the dyno, maybe for the occasional Saturday morning blat around your favourite roads, do some illegal and dangerous speeds, maybe have an accident if that’s your thing.

The advantages of a track only car:

  • It won’t cost you any money whilst its stood, no MOT, no Tax or even insurance (the last one is debatable, but I don’t bother).
  • If it’s kept in a dry garage it won’t have ongoing rust issues, you can buy an old car, fix any problem areas and it won’t reoccur or get worse. Not only the bodywork & chassis, but a car stored outside for long lengths of time, particularly in Winter will suffer from the brakes corroding and potentially seizing and corrosion to any other metal parts.
  • If you’re working on it you won’t need to rush the job so the car can get you to work on Monday morning!
  • My track car has no cloth roof, just a removable (lift off) hard top, this would be a pain in Summer as a daily drive.
  • You don’t have to worry about having a working and legal car to get home in. Many track cars break down at the track, they also wear their tyres down rapidly, often to the cords.

Disadvantages of using a track car as a daily drive:

  • Whilst it will be fun for the first half hour it’ll soon wear off! Track cars are tiresome to drive on the road, the older you are, the worse it gets. Stiff and noisy suspension (bushes and dampers), firm noisy tyres, noisy exhaust, bucket seats, harnesses are all a major PITA when off track.
  • Dangerous to drive: Brake pads which don’t work too well when they are cold, semi slick tyres, track based geometry, safety features which no longer work (ABS, air bags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, stripped out interiors, cages etc)
  • You’ll need a cat to pass a legal MOT, track cars don’t require cats.
  • It’ll scrape, bang and damage itself over every speed hump and pothole. The underside will get damaged, wheels crack and buckle, front splitters ripped off in standing water or speedhumps, certain air intakes will drag in deeper standing water and destroy the engine.
  • Engines built for track use are generally not happy on the road, the pistons are loose in the bores when cold so will rattle, they have little low end torque and need to be fully up to temp to give their best and burn off any moisture or fuel present in the oil. They can idle quite high because of the lumpy cams.

To sum up and put it quite bluntly a well sorted and driven track focused car will perform well on track and you’ll be going quicker than many of them out there. Likewise a properly sorted road car will perform well on the road to get you there safely and in a dignified manner.

Neither one of the above will do each others job as well, a compromise R&T car will also do neither of these properly, you’ll be overtaken on track, on the road and by and large be nothing but irritating and disappointing whilst attempting either.