While many might assume that the Ferrari 458 or the Nissan GT-R would be naturally at home on the track, they’d be wrong. The truth is many supercars aren’t up to the task of heavy braking, lap after lap, nor to spin their tires off unceremoniously exiting every corner. It’s part of the advertising campaign these cars ride on to show that they’re incredible performers, but the demands a real racing circuit places on road-oriented cars is often more than they can handle.
So how does one take a sports car optimized for the street and make it capable of the abuse thrown at it by a real circuit? It’s a startlingly simple process, but one that needs doing – even with the top-tier cars that are, in many cases, designed just as much for comfort and practicality as they are for outright performance. It’s a strange world we live in.
Taking a mid-range car is all that’s necessary to get the most out of a track day: seat time doesn’t need to be had in rare ostrich leather. The mismatched panels and overwhelmed tires with this old-school GC8 is more than enough. Absolutely cool, powerful enough, light, this kind of car is probably the best route to take for a beginning or intermediate driver who needs to get their kicks and backroad blasts aren’t that satisfying any longer.
What comes first are safety, reliability, and roadholding/braking. These pieces are the most important to ensure plenty of headache-free laps, and power isn’t all that necessary. In fact, wealthy drivers who get into driving on the track, often spring from their road-going Porsche to buy an all-out racing engine, only to find they’re not going any faster with the upgraded power. Cornering and braking are the most important features.
When it comes to stopping, the WRX is no slouch; its brakes are solid from the factory, but they’re not capable in their stock form of handling the forces faced on-track. Slotted rotors and track-oriented pads will help the middle pedal from going soft after a few laps. This will ensure confidence and keep drivers out of the tires. Braided brake lines offer consistent brake feel, and without the malleable rubber lines found on in stock trim, the won’t swell and expand when the brake fluid gets hot. On that note, brake fluid is under greater demands here, so high-performance brake fluid will help keep things predictable and safe.
Once the stopping side of things is addressed, a few mods to the handling help. A set of swaybars will keep a balanced platform, a little more feel towards the limit, and a little more response from the steering. Track-worthy body control also comes down to a good set of coilovers. Always opt on the side of quality over adjustability. There’s no reason to get knockoff coilovers when good shocks and springs are available, but a quality set like the Ohlins featured here won’t be regretted. Finding them for a bargain can be quite a challenge though.
With those necessary modifications, a fluid flush, and some newer, spiffier racing fluids in their place, just about any road car is ready for the track. It’s wise to add safety upgrades like proper bucket seats, a harness and a half-cage or rollbar to get that extra bit of confidence. Tires complete the package, and with those, a good night’s rest, some camaraderie and a few hundred bucks, one can test their skills on-track and improve remarkably quickly. Just go already!