The best track day cars

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6 of the best track day cars for £5000
No matter which way you look at it, getting into motorsport isn’t cheap. Then again competitive motorsport isn’t for everyone, and for considerably less money, you can buy a track day car. There’s a wide array of different thrills and cars on the market for around £5,000, and without the stress of actually competing, a cheap track day toy can be a lot of fun. Matthew Hayward, staff writer for evo, rounds up six of the best. 
Porsche 944
Porsche 944 (1982–1991)
eBay loves: Fantastic fun, Porsche engineering
Watch out for: Expensive parts and labour prices
There’s a reason that so many Porsche 944s have been turned into track cars: they’re affordable, great fun, reliable and forgiving at the limit. Some parts can be expensive, especially when upgrading, but the 944 is largely durable and has been engineered to withstand some serious abuse. Early 944 models can be bought from £1,500, but a newer and more robust 944 S2 is a safer bet from around £4,500. Although turbo models seem attractive, the naturally aspirated engine is a much more sensible choice. 

Peugeot 205 GTI
Peugeot 205 GTI (1984-1994)
eBay loves: Lightweight, cheap to repair
Watch out for: Accident damage

Front-wheel drive isn’t generally the most fun layout on a circuit, but that is certainly not the case where small ‘80s and ‘90s fast Peugeots are concerned. A stiffened and track-prepped 205 GTI is probably one of the liveliest cars on this list. Another option is the newer 306 GTI-6 or Rallye. They’re slightly softer around the edges, and can also be turned into effective track toys. A budget of £5,000 goes a long way with either 306, or the classic 205 GTI, meaning you can choose to buy a purpose-built car, or build one yourself.

Subaru Impreza STI
Subaru Impreza STI (1994-2000)
eBay loves: Big power, great noise
Watch out for: Weak engines on some model years
Nothing beats the warble of a flat-four Subaru Impreza, and with the relatively large number of import models around, the high-performance four-wheel drive STI is yet another performance bargain. There are many different models to choose from, including RB5, P1, Type-R, RA and of course STI. When buying, it’s important to do your research on the specific model you’re interested in, as some were fitted with trick differentials that can make the handling much more interesting while out on track. Some engines suffer a bottom-end knock with extensive track use, so specialist help to select a good car is recommended, if you’re planning on doing multiple track days.

Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5 (1990-2005)
eBay loves: Cheap, simple and fun motoring
Watch out for: Rusty bodywork
When Mazda set out to re-invent the British sports car in 1989, it produced one of the greatest rear-wheel drive performance cars of all time. It was designed to emulate the excellent original 1960s Lotus Elan, which also explains why the MX-5 is such a natural track star. Mk1 and Mk2 models are all affordable, with a wealth of specialists and aftermarket performance parts to choose from. Even in modest 1.6-litre form, there’s a lot of fun to be had, although there are turbo and supercharger kits available if you’re feeling brave. If you want to progress to club racing, there’s a Mazda MX-5 specific championship too.

BMW M3 E36
BMW M3 E36 (1992-1999)
eBay loves: Legendary piece of motorsport history
Watch out for: Potential engine problems
Although purists say the E36 M3 is little heavy for the track, stripped out, an E36 BMW M3 can be a beautiful thing to drive. Evolution models are the most desirable, coming with the epic 3.2-litre straight-six engine. Earlier 3.0-litre cars are cheaper, but it’s absolutely worth seeking out one of the later cars for track work if you can afford it. Very little modification is needed to turn an E36 into a fun track day car, and the great thing is it can still be a great road car - depending on how hardcore you go, of course. As with most BMWs of this age, the car’s VANOS unit (variable valve timing) can cause problems, but is generally reliable. 

Renaultsport Clio Cup
Renaultsport Clio Cup ('1999-'2005)
eBay loves: Frantic fun, great beginner choice
Watch out for: Accident damage
Yet another front-wheel drive French hot hatch, the Clio is great fun out of the box. Early 172 cup models came stripped out from the factory, even lacking ABS. Like Renaultsport’s other efforts, the Clio Cup is perfectly set-up for trackdays, also makes sense as a weekend run around at the same time. The four-cylinder engines are very strong, and the Cup’s delicate handling balance inspires so much confidence, you’ll give most of the more exotic machinery a run for its money on track. 

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