In the Headlights - Track Weapons {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

14 Aug 2017

Modern performance cars are seriously impressive aren’t they? We’ve got 180 of them to choose from here, and all (okay, not all, the SUVs can be excused) are fast, handle well and sound great. But really once you move above the 200bhp hot hatches you can barely exploit their performance on the road without the risk of getting yourself into serious trouble with the law. Floor a 345bhp Focus RS and you’ll be into licence-losing territory before you can say ‘Ecoboost’, let alone in something as insanely quick as a Caterham 620R. So many people choose to take their fun car somewhere they can explore the limits of the performance – the track. Track days are available at fairly cheap prices these days – around £100 for a day’s driving can be found if you look for deals, but if you’re going to do them regularly you want a car that has been designed for it from the outset. This week’s In the Headlights feature is all about Track Cars and our four special cars have been chosen by Pistonheads and Autocar features writer Alisdair Suttie. You can read his thoughts in an interview coming in a few days, but for now I’m going to cast my eye over his choices and see what I think of them…

The first two cars sit in fairly cheap price brackets – in fact tickets are crazy cheap in our competition for them – as they are both hot hatches. Starting off with the Clio RS220 Trophy which is the most road-oriented car of the four, it certainly holds a lot of promise. 217bhp is a lot for a fairly small car (consider that the Golf GTi has the same in a much bigger car) and Renaultsport have seriously good previous form to fall back on like the Clio 172, 182 and 197. They were all 3dr models though, and this is 5dr only which upsets some people – I’m not sure why as it’s only a set of rear doors – but more are getting all worked up about the fact that you can’t have a manual gearbox with it. That’s because the RS220 only comes with a 6-speed dual clutch gearbox and having driven one recently I can sort of see why they’re complaining as it certainly isn’t as quick-shifting or intuitive as VW’s offerings. But it’s still a great car to drive with tonnes of grip and go.

The Abarth Biposto is a brilliant example of Italian craziness – take an already fun little hatchback and strip out the rear seats, remove the A/C and radio, stick a very fruity exhaust on, lightweight wheels and stiffer, adjustable suspension (all those things are also what Porsche do with the 911 GT3 by the way). The Biposto, even in standard form (you can optionally add a racing dogleg gearbox and plexiglass windows) is about as hardcore as you want a road car to be, but it’s just so focused, so raw that every journey becomes an event. Get it on track and you’ll surprise a lot of owners of certain German rear-engined sports cars too.

Now we’re moving up in the world a bit we find a very sparse Lotus and a more focused version of my favourite supercar of the moment. First up we have the Lotus 3-Eleven – a car that is about as close to a track-only special as you can get while still being road usable (bar a Radical I suppose). Lotus start with an Exige V6S (one of my favourite cars), tune it up to 404bhp and remove most of the body – and interior – there’s just a dial pod and a wheel in there, resulting in an incredibly focused road/track car that weighs just 925kg. You’ll need to wear a helmet as there’s no windscreen either, in fact there’s pretty much just an engine, gearbox, wheels and the bare minimum of bodywork to stop stones battering your body to pieces. This really is one of the most visceral experiences you’ll be able to have on 4 wheels, be it on road or on track.

The final car sits at the top of the tree and rightly so – it takes what is in my view the best supercar on sale today and makes it lighter and more focused. When McLaren created the 570S it worried a lot of people at Lamborghini and Ferrari, mainly because the 570S was so good at being a comfortable road cruiser and proper supercar that they simply couldn’t compete (and still can’t). The way the 570S can go down a bumpy road in Comfort mode is incredible – think BMW 7-Series ride quality – then turn it to Track and it will delight, rearrange your internal organs and make you recalibrate your senses. But now that latter part is made even more so with the Track Pack – using lighter seats, wheels and other parts to save 25kg along with a slightly bigger rear spoiler for more downforce means that this is a supercar that will probably stick to the Lotus 3-Eleven like glue around a track. I’m hoping I can find out…

Don’t forget to buy your tickets for these fantastic cars for one week only right here.