'What was your lap time?' is the message I get from a mate of mine. I've absolutely no clue, is my response - but I can safely say it's quicker than any lap I've ever done at Donington previously. I didn't even think to time it because, in all honestly, I was just too busy.
There are fast cars here, and then there's the Ginetta G58. I've been around the track for a few familiarisation laps in some of Ginetta's other track cars, starting with the G40 GRDC. It has all of 135bhp, road tyres and a manual gearbox. Small numbers, but as it's only shifting 840kg it's huge fun and beautifully balanced. If I was told that would be my only drive for the rest of the day I would genuinely not have minded.
It isn't though, as there's a Ginetta G55 GT4 here, too. And it is a bit more senior. The weight is up to 1085kg, but there's 380bhp from a 3.7-litre V6, pneumatically actuated paddle-shifters, slick tyres and some aero. Even so, it exhibits all the ease, and balance of the G40, only it's much, much quicker.
A few laps in has it demolishing everything else that's out on track. Ginetta's development driver, Michael Simpson, says that it's a car that makes up most of its time in the corners. Its agility and easily carried speed making it a formidable GT4 car, with a sizeable haul of international trophies to show for it. I'm struggling to comprehend how I might be able to go any faster today.
The G58 is the answer. Ginetta calls it a track day car, but add a few stickers and it's eligible for open sportscar competition (a G58 won the Silverstone 12hrs in 2018). It's essentially a prototype racer then, with a carbon fibre monocoque and a 6.2-litre V8 with 575bhp. It weighs 940kg, has a Xtrac 6-speed sequential 'box, adjustable ABS, traction control and brake bias - none of which I'll be fiddling with - electric power steering and all the FIA approved gubbins like fuel cells, crash structures and race harnessing that allow it to compete - if you want to.
If you don't then there are always track and testing days. While £239,000 (before VAT) might seem excessive for a circuit-only toy, it's worth pointing out that a Carrera GT graced the tarmac at Donington on the day in question, among countless other exotics with prices north of what the G58 costs. Simpson gives me a brief tour of the cockpit, after helping me get in. The grace by which this is achieved generally depends on your familiarity with the machinery; in my case it's like squeezing toothpaste back into the tube. Strapped in, feet high in a classic reclined racing position, clutching the pistol grip steering wheel and doing my best to appear nonchalant as Simpson simply says 'enjoy it', and has the pit crew push me out of the garage.
Just the three stalls then; the clutch, as with any race car, being tricky to get right. No push of shame back to the garage to try again though, as the V8 fires again on the button on my fourth attempt, rolling down Donington's usefully downhill pit lane towards the track. Simpson said it's an easy thing to drive, which is easy to say when you've got Le Mans starts on your CV. Unlike the two cars previously where I felt I was asking them for their best performance, the G58 feels like it needs mine.
A tentative first lap is revealing, insomuch as racing cars don't like tentative. Driving it without commitment results in clumsy progress; jerking and recalcitrant, the G58 needs to be driven hard to reveal what it can do. On lap two I have that epiphany, and start to push the G58 properly, braking later and harder, committing earlier and quicker to the throttle, the paddle-shifted gears punching up and down the 'box, with zero delay. The trickiest thing about real downforce is unlearning the things you do in a normal car. With aero in play you can stand on the brakes as they work best when the forward momentum's generating maximum downward push. It does not pay to be delicate.
Conversely, you don't need to brake as much as you might anticipate. The G58 hangs on with such conviction that the turn-in speeds are on a different level to anything I've experienced before. The steering is light, which comes as a bit of a surprise; indeed, on a pure energy expended basis the G58's the least demanding of the three cars I've driven today. It is way less busy than the 135bhp G40 GRDC, as well as the G55 GT4. That's not to say I'm just lounging reclined in a carbon-fibre tub lapping at ever-increasing speeds - just that the physicality of driving it doesn't come from your inputs into it, but from the forces it subjects you to.
There is some traffic on track, but as soon as it's spotted it's gone, even those usually impossible to pass trackday Caterhams with their epic cornering speeds. The G58 gets better with every lap, and with heat now in the tyres and brakes it's quicker still. The immediacy of its response is startling, it so precise and accurate that you quickly learn to trust it implicitly. The engine, tractable at low revs, just sings as the lights signalling the proximity to its redline appeal on the wheel. They're a familiar sight now, particularly down Starkey's Straight, where I'm pulling for another gear and still accelerating past the point where I'd be preparing to brake in the other Ginettas. Through the flick-flack of the Esses, it's hilariously quick in changing direction, turn the wheel the merest millimetre and the nose darts at the new line.
It's that sense of connection which makes it so friendly to drive. You're never left second-guessing what it's doing as it's so obviously hard-wired to your inputs and returns exactly what you ask of it. There is a conspicuous absence of inertia; from the motor itself to the way the G58 catapults forwards. It's as if the V8's doesn't have any weight to move at all.
Driving it makes an absolute mockery of all those million-pound hyper and supercars, the G58's singular function meaning it does without compromises on track. A La Ferrari, 918 Spyder or a P1 wouldn't see which way it went, nor would a Senna. All while giving more, for significantly less. If being the quickest on track is all that matters - and, let's face it, we all want to be - then the G58 will seldom, if ever, be bettered on a track day.
I've argued before that speed isn't necessary to have fun, and I still stand by that - indeed, the G40 GRDC underlines it. But the G58 puts its savage turn of pace in a context that's backed with other competences, things that really matter if you love driving. It asks things of you, demands your attention, yet rewards with incredible feel, and huge, physical force. Yes, there's huge speed too, but it's the elements that generate it that are the car's truly beguiling and laugh-out-loud enjoyable features.
Getting out of it I've no idea of my lap times, and I don't care one bit. I know I was faster than I've ever been. "You weren't hanging about", Simpson told me later as we stood around chatting in the aftermath. That'll do for me. Although if I ever get a chance to drive a G58 again I might take a stopwatch - just to be sure.
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