Is Ginetta's G40 racer a good route into motorsport?

By topgear, 30 April 2016

A couple of weeks ago we asked AMR’s Darren Turner about the art of being a racing driver, and he assured us you don’t have to be a child prodigy to forge a career on the track.

“There is no set in stone way of being a racing driver,” said the 42-year-old. “No one has got there on exactly the same path.”

Nor do all the paths lead to the same destination. There are plenty of series to aim for – both nationally and further afield – that could well be within reach for those who are willing to put in a bit of practice.

The question is, where do you start? Karting is always a thrill, but rarely will your local track give you anything with a gearbox to charge around in. Rallycross is another option, although be prepared for those repair bills to mount up over time.

If you’re looking for something swift and civilised, you could always consider Ginetta…

Who is Ginetta?

Ginetta is a 58-year-old British car company that has spent six decades handcrafting road and race cars, and today its focus is on offering a route from “entry level” to “international motorsport platforms”. In other words, it wants to be your first step en route to bigger, faster racing series.

The company makes a range of cars to accommodate clients with varying degrees of experience, although its most popular set of wheels is the entry-level G40. It’s designed to make reaching the limit of performance accessible for a novice, whilst still being good fun to drive around a track.

So how much does it cost?

You need £39,960 to buy Ginetta’s G40 Club Car package. For that you will get a 135bhp G40 to keep forever, 12 months of road tax and an ARDS racing licence, as well as entry into four race weekends at Rockingham, Silverstone, Snetterton and Donington. Three tracks in the middle of the UK, and one that’s a little bit out in Norfolk.

Also included are two days of racing tuition, technical assistance and hospitality at each of your events.

And what about the car itself?

The G40 harvests its power from a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder Ford Zetec engine, as it has done for many years now. Weighing in at 840kg - about the same as an early Lotus Elise - it has a power-to-weight ratio of around 160bhp-per-tonne, and a top speed of 201kph.

Nothing overwhelming, but just enough to unsettle those who perhaps aren’t used to pushing the accelerator right into depths of the carpet.

How does it drive?

Nicely. Very nicely, actually. The throttle is forgiving and progressive, so there’ll be no sudden scares if you’re a little too hasty applying the power. But nor is it sluggish: the G40 is enthusiastic when it comes to picking up speed in a straight line, and is satisfyingly responsive exiting the corners.

The steering is a pleasure as well. Light but direct, clipping the apex will quickly become routine once you got a feel for the car. And despite the focused driving position, it doesn’t feel like discomfort ought to become an issue.

The brakes take a few laps to get the hang of, but then servo assistance in a car like this would rather defeat the object. You’ll have bought it to learn how to race, after all.


If we were to pick out one foible, it would be the five-speed gearbox. Not so much the clutch (which will happily take a fair bit of aggression) but the lever itself, which naturally sits high within the cockpit, relative to the shallow seats.

For anyone unaccustomed to this kind of setup, upshifts and downshifts will be awkward at first, a sensation made worse by the small amount of travel between the gears. But again: adapting to this format is exactly why people will buy the G40. Racers like the gear selector as close as possible, something most road cars don’t prioritise.

How will it fare on the road?

There’s no escaping the fact that with only four events in Ginetta’s starter package calendar, you’ll be entertaining yourself for 48 weekends of the year. Fortunately, the G40 has enough about it to suggest that it won’t be out of place on a quiet B-road or country lane.

The steering – as we’ve already mentioned – makes it a very approachable car to drive, and tellingly the brake pedal isn’t simply all-or-nothing: it has enough travel to be used gently at non-racetrack speeds.

And because the G40’s small, it’ll go just about anywhere. So a trip to the shops isn’t out of the question, provided that you’re frugal and aren’t buying a lifetime supply of loo roll. It’s not going to be as quick as the most exciting variants of Elises, Sevens and Atoms, mind.

What does a race weekend look like?

Optional testing on the Friday before each event is followed by a 20-minute qualifying session on Saturdays. After that there are two races – each 15 minutes in duration – on each day of the weekend. So you’ll compete in eight races in your first Ginetta ‘season’.

This is where potential buyers will have to think long and hard about their options. In total, you’ll spend a little over three hours driving in anger around the various venues, discounting the Friday practice sessions. If you’re really after time behind the wheel, the G40 might not be the car for you.

That said, Ginetta has actually designed the calendar for people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands. While you might not get much racing, you might not want much racing. It all depends on your circumstances.

Can this really lead to a motorsport career?

Potentially, yes. Graduates have gone on to race in the BTCC, the LMP3 class in the European Le Mans Series and the British GT championship.

Will Palmer – brother of current F1 driver Jolyon – is a former G40 racer, and now competes in Formula Renault 2.0 having won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award last year, previous holders of which include David Coulthard and Jenson Button.

If you want to kick-start a career in motorsport, you still need to be talented, and the more experience you have from a young age the better. But if you’re looking to test yourself then Ginetta will certainly do you no harm.

What if I outgrow a G40?

Then you can move up the ladder. The Ginetta GT5 Challenge grid is open to second-year G40 racers for a fee of around £4,794, and acts as a support series for the British GT championship. There are 18 races over six rounds, including a visit to Spa-Francorchamps, arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world.

Beyond that, if you prove your worth you could end up racing one of Ginetta’s G55s, pictured. The GT4 edition features in a series which supports the British Touring Car Championship, and contains a 3.7-litre V6 capable of producing 355bhp. Meanwhile the GT3 car races in several national GT championships, and is powered by a 570bhp V8.

Is it worth the money?

That is the £39,960 question, and honestly it entirely depends on what you’re after. The G40 offers sweet handling for beginners, with the opportunity to explore a career in racing. But with minimal time actually racing, you’d want to be sure it’s something you’re determined to persevere with before whipping out the chequebook.

Ariel, meanwhile, will offer you an Atom Cup car for £36,500, a price that includes a seven-race calendar, while the Caterham’s Academy will offer much the same for £26,995.

If you’re just after occasion track-day thrills, there are plenty more powerful cars for below £40,000, without the additional costs racing brings (spare parts, all the FIA-approved clothing). But if you’re dead set on finding out how far your talents can take you, one of Britain’s entry-level race series might just be for you.