It's a racing car for the road! PH Blog

Go on, admit it. Somewhere in your automotive past there lurks an example of you trying to add a bit of 'because racecar' flavour to your daily driver. The adult equivalent of a bit of cardboard in your spokes, it's a little feel-good embellishment to kid yourself you're a call-up away from a career as a racing driver.

Now THIS is a Track Mode
Now THIS is a Track Mode
In my case it was some homemade 'tow' arrows on the bumpers of my old Impreza WRX. This was before a strap or anodised hook became the essential bolt-on accessory for every High Street Herbert in a hot hatch so I like to think I was ahead of the curve on this one, thereby granting me rights to scoff dismissively any time I see it now. Something like this, a Sparco pad on your seatbelt or a K&N sticker on your bootlid are, I think, pretty innocent pleasures. Ripping out your interior to install a faux roll cage, putting stickers with your name and blood group on the windows or adding a DIY plywood diffuser? I think someone may need to have a word.

Manufacturers aren't innocent in this game either. Prime example? Has to be the BMW M3, the first of which was arguably a race car for the road. Or, speaking accurately, a road car to enable the E30 3 Series to go racing. The four generations of M3 since (and now the M4) have traded heavily on this 30-year motorsport heritage while lacking any meaningful link to racing cars, the stripped and caged GTS models taking this idea into pure parody.

Racing driver with a racing car (for the road)
Racing driver with a racing car (for the road)
So, when has it worked? I was interested to read the initial reviews of the Ford GT and hear some moans that it was, y'know, too much like being in a racing car. Which makes me laugh, given supercar buyers have for years craved pseudo motorsport trimmings as proof of their virility, be that through carbon trim, fire extinguishers in the passenger footwell, uncomfortable fixed bucket seats or inconvenient harnesses. But it takes more than Alcantara and racing stripes to turn your supercar into race car for the road, the complaints about the GT being too cramped, noisy and uncomfortable an amusing reminder to be careful what you wish for.

Because having sat through a fascinating 45-minute geek-out on the GT with Ford Performance engineering boss Jamal Hameedi I'm reassured to understand quite how close Le Mans winner and road car actually are. The details are fascinating (and too complex to detail this time around) but the necessities of building a competitive car capable of winning Le Mans on its first outing and also delivering customer street cars before the year was out to satisfy the homologation rules meant there was no choice but to run the programmes in parallel. It's there in the fundamental architecture of the 'keel' hull and narrow cabin, respectively optimised to improve underbody downforce and frontal area. It's there in the choice of a highly evolved Ecoboost V6. It's there in the FIA spec roll cage integrated into the structure. It's there in the fact the switchable 70mm Track ride height is to within millimetres of what the LM GTE car runs. And after a tantalisingly brief go with it I can confirm it's there in the way it drives. If you don't believe me then ask Olivier Pla, factory Ford driver who was there on the day and hadn't actually driven the street GT before - he seemed honestly surprised at how close they are in feel.

Loud, cramped, hard work? It's meant to be!
Loud, cramped, hard work? It's meant to be!
There's the reality though. Racing cars are noisy, uncomfortable and built for one thing - racing. By necessity that compromises their suitability as road cars, something you may or may not be willing to put up with in the name of reflected glory while pootling about town. These are the true race or rally cars for the roads, demanding of a level of commitment from their drivers. And then there are the wannabes. Time to name and shame - I'll open the bidding with Ford GT as the former and any M3 with more than four cylinders* the latter. Over to you...


One flyer in the Ford GT.

*Bonus point if you can name the honourable exceptions!









Comments (109) Join the discussion on the forum

  • snuffy 05 Sep 2017

    I had a Noble M12 for a number of years and I reckon that was pretty much a race car for the road.

  • r11co 05 Sep 2017

    Are we including rallying? In which case the Peugeot 205/106 Rallye (and their Talbot Samba predecessor) count without being exotic IMO.

  • cuda 05 Sep 2017

    I thought my 997.1 GT3 was a bit of a road racer - but then I went in a 997 Cup Car around Spa...

  • joshleb 05 Sep 2017

    Will this result in unsatisfied customers then?

    Looks amazing, can't wait to see one in the flesh!

  • Polrules 05 Sep 2017

    Race car for the road you say, imagine these would make the GT seem a bit of a half-hearted effort....

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