Best track day cars 2023
Some of the world's most engaging, visceral track cars have emerged in 2023 – these are our favourites
Track cars have a simple mandate to excite and entertain when driven to the maximum within the safe confines of a circuit. There’s no specific recipe to uphold – driven wheels, body styles and engine layouts shouldn’t matter here, only a resolute focus on being both fun to drive and resilient enough to handle more than a few laps at high speed.
So here’s our take on the best cars to fulfil for your track day desires, be that something designed specifically for the circuit driving job, or a car with a broader remit. Most are road-legal, but for absolute purity and thrills, there are purpose built machines that take things to the next level.
This list will inevitably include multiple examples of track day stalwarts from Caterham and Ariel, but 2023 has also seen a new wave of extreme, single-minded supercars from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin. So in no particular order, here are the best track day cars you can buy now that’ll make every turn-in, apex and straight a pleasure…
Best track day cars 2023
- Lamborghini Huracán STO
- Caterham Seven
- Ariel Atom
- BAC Mono
- Porsche 911 GT3 RS
- Honda Civic Type R
- Ginetta G56 GTA
- Ferrari SF90 Assetto Fiorano
- KTM X-Bow GT-XR
- Aston Martin Valkyrie
Lamborghini Huracán STO
Lamborghini has gone down the stripped-out route with its Huracán before, but unlike the Performante, which introduced some clever aero and a small power bump to a fairly basic Huracán LP610-4, the STO is something rather different. Somehow, it looks the same, but different. The car’s wider, yes, but rather it's its construction that differs. The nose is now one carbonfibre clamshell. The rear quarter panels are also of carbon, and the rear screen is gone, replaced with a snorkel and slats.
These elements are for one reason – reduction of weight, which also explains this car’s lack of front driveshafts, its carbon buckets and simplified nature. Best of all, that supersonic V10 engine is in its brilliant 631bhp form, which combined with some superb calibration and tuning of both powertrain and chassis has made the STO the best Huracán on road and track yet.
If we were to split Caterham’s range into individual entries on this list, you might find that ‘Best trackday cars’ would instead be ‘Best Caterhams, with an Ariel thrown in’, so vast and widely brilliant is the range. New for 2021 was the entry-level 170 model which pairs the Suzuki-sourced turbo triple with Japanese-spec axles to create not just the smallest Caterham in the range, but also the lightest, with the R coming in at barely 440kg. Now in 2022, there's the wicked new 420 Cup, complete with sequential transmission and an even more highly strung Ford Duratec engine.
Beyond these new additions, there are still 360 and 420 models in the range, the latter Duratec-engined 420 being particularly virile. The hypersonic 620 tops the range, and while most variants are available in both S and R forms, the latter is more track-focused. The nature of Caterham means you can essentially specify any model to your exact preference, creating what might be one of the all-time greats of trackday superstars. Even better, most are equally fabulous on the road, and they hold their value too. This list isn’t ranked, but Caterham Sevens sit near the top of this web page for a reason. There's even a bespoke evo edition that melds our favourite options into one fabulous package for road and track...
Similar deal here to the Caterham, as the Ariel Atom in pretty much all its forms represents a pinnacle of track day thrills. Stick to the absolute current range and the Atom 4 is resplendent in its magnificence – intense, malleable and intoxicatingly quick. Some might prefer the instantaneous snap of the 3’s supercharged four-cylinder, but the 4’s turbocharged thrust is not only more powerful, but offers its own appeal from its boosty delivery.
If you’re after something a little bit different, the Nomad is also an absolute blast, and any preconceived notions that the naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine might be more CR-V than Ariel are completely unfounded, as the extra torque gives the Nomad a different edge, so too its long-travel suspension and hilarious propensity to be able to traverse any terrain in any weather. Just make sure you’re wearing appropriate apparel.
BAC Mono R
Another British specialist, BAC’s Mono might also have some exposed front steering arms but it’s a much more serious proposition. This is reflected in the £250k asking price, putting it at the very very sharp end for something that, although technically road legal, really is just a toy.
Yet the pay-off is a unique experience dominated by the Mono’s truly astounding capability and speed. Anything this side of a GT3 racer will have some serious issues keeping up with the Mono, and almost nothing else combines its near-open-wheeler experience with such superb build quality
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
There's an air of inevitability about the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It's the yardstick by which all other track-focused road cars are judged, and given that the latest 911 is more GT-like than ever, Porsche has pushed the new RS to even more extreme heights than its predecessors to produce a truly formidable machine that's highly distinct from the base car.
The GT3 RS’s immense performance and grip are almost otherworldly. It genuinely feels like a 911 Cup car with number plates, and while the 518bhp 4-litre flat-six isn't meaningfully more potent than that of the standard GT3, the RS feels like a car transformed – particularly on a high-speed circuit. With the damper and diff settings adjustable on the fly, it's also a car that offers a deep well of rewards for high-level drivers.
Honda Civic Type R
The latest Honda Civic Type R is a case of a manufacturer listening to feedback and delivering in brilliant fashion. We loved the previous FK8-generation car, its communicative, tenacious chassis and engaging powertrain, but there were two snags in the otherwise world-beating formula: its divisive styling and the restrictive drive mode presets that left the Type R with untapped potential. The FL5 model rectifies both of these and brings a host of engineering enhancements in one hit, making it the best hot hatchback money can buy.
In an age of DCT-equipped four-wheel drive mega hatches, the Type R feels almost touring car-like in the surgical, sometimes frantic way it delivers performance. The Honda's communicative controls and instinctive manual gearshift draw you into exploiting all of its potential on track, where even full-blooded sports cars would have a very hard time clinging to its rear wing.
Ginetta G56 GTA
Track days are one thing, but for the most addictive, electrifying experience you can have at the wheel of a car, racing is the answer. Ginetta has been building GT race cars for a variety of skill levels and competition series for decades, and its G56 GTA is an £80,000 entry point into the world of motorsport; and some entry point it is. Having raced our long-term G56 GTA at Oulton Park and Silverstone in 2023 – picking up a few podiums along the way – we can attest that the V6-engined racer is engaging, challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
Close-quarters racing against similar cars is always a recipe for a huge adrenaline hit, but it's the G56's natural balance and friendly handling characteristics that make it an absolute joy. With a purpose built tubular chassis, a race-tuned 270bhp 3.7-litre V6 and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S road tyres, the G56 permeates with focus, but it's also approachable. The Michelins have progressive breakaway characteristics and a surprisingly long life (drivers are allocated three sets across the season), which makes the racing more affordable and more fun. Deputy editor James Taylor and evo writer Yousuf Ashraf have built lifelong memories racing the G56, and if we had the money, we wouldn't think twice.
Ferrari SF90 Assetto Fiorano
It might sound a little counterintuitive to find Ferrari’s heaviest car on this list, but more than any other Ferrari currently on sale, the relative freedom of a closed circuit is the only way to experience the plug-in SF90’s immense speed and capability.
In typical fashion, Ferrari’s made sure that its plug-in hybrid flagship can handle persistent laps, something we can confirm having pounded an Assetto Fiorano-specification SF90 on track for the best part of three days without incident. When you do properly plug yourself into the SF90, it proves so violently fast that it now tops our road-legal lap time leaderboard at Anglesey’s coastal circuit, which broke the overall road car lap record along the way.
KTM X-Bow GT-XR
Road-going racing cars are rare, despite what some supercar manufacturers might have you believe. Dressing a road car with wings, hunkered down suspension and a stripped back interior might give the impression of a racing car, but for the real deal, KTM has the answer with this: the X-Bow GT-XR. Born from the X-Bow GTX which won its class in the Barcelona 24 Hours race in 2021, the GT-XR is one of the most extreme road-legal cars we've ever driven, and one perfectly suited for extended high-speed track sessions.
Powered by a 493bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder motor from Audi, the carbon-bodied X-Bow weighs 1226kg and provides the instantaneous and eye-widening performance you'd expect of a purebred track car. "There are glimpses of a brilliance," said James Taylor after evo's first taste of the GT-XR. "The cornering forces and kickback-free steering could make a ‘normal’ supercar feel anodyne and ungainly".
Aston Martin Valkyrie
If you want to recalibrate your expectations as to what a road car is capable of, look no further than the Aston Martin Valkyrie. It should come as no surprise that the 1139bhp, Adrian Newey-designed machine is the most technically impressive, physically demanding hypercar of them all, but with a shrink-wrapped body generating a sustained 600kg of downforce at speed, it opens up an entirely new realm of performance.
The Valkyrie takes time, skill and enormous commitment to get near its potential, but when everything comes together, there's no road car quite like it. "At first everything feels like it’s happening too fast, but the trick is to look further and further ahead," said evo's Richard Meaden having lapped the Valkyrie at the Bahrain GP circuit. "It feels unnatural, but it’s all part of the recalibration process. One that you gradually get on top of lap-by-lap, but with less time to relax on the straights and so much compressed into each braking effort the Valkyrie is a ruthless and relentless test of your focus and mental stamina."
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