Currently reading: Top 10 best track day cars 2024
Low weight means big fun – but which of minimal mass track day entertainers makes our top 10?

The best track day cars bring with them unrivalled handling delicacy, tactile involvement and responsiveness, plus performance that is orders of magnitude higher than the on paper power outputs would suggest.

After all, when you really want to have fun behind the wheel, you need to minimise the mass, maximise the mechanicals and leave the notion of comfort behind. And the simplest and easiest way of doing this is by venturing into the most specialised section of the car market. 

To qualify for this list our contenders have to tip the scales at under 1000kg (or thereabouts) and have a singular focus to engage and entertain. We’re not interested in infotainment systems, leather trim or climate control, and if we’re honest even basic weather protection isn’t a prerequisite to entry. 

So, here’s our top picks for brilliant, back-to-basics track day entertainers.

Best track day cars for 2024

1. Ariel Atom 4R


To the uninitiated, the fourth generation Atom looks much like the first, which is to say a cartoonish mash-up of children’s climbing frame and a single seat racer.

Yet while the brilliantly pared-back aesthetics are similar, as is the lazer-focus on stripping away anything that comes between the driver and a good time, this fourth generation road racer is the most advanced and exciting yet.

The 4R, meanwhile, turns things up to 11. The power output swells from 320bhp to 400bhp, its Ohlins dampers with remote reservoirs are updated and mated to either special track or road/track springs and it offers Ariel's first ABS option too.

This featherweight, sequential-gearbox, outrageously unfettered 4R is a little jewel of a supercar slayer, but it can bite if you fail to anticipate the arrival of turbo boost, and care needs to be taken not to lock the brakes.

But the lack of inertia allows the Ariel to dart into and out of corners with barely a whiff of slip, slide, rock or roll. It communicates so lucidly too, the unpowered steering keeping you keyed-in to the road, the mid-engined balance and razor sharp throttle giving options and entertainment in equal measure.

It’s a total immersion device and every trip leaves you exhilarated and happily exhausted.

You want more proof of the Atom 4’s excellence? Well, it’s one of only a handful of machines to take back-to-back wins in our previous Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout.


Read our review

Car review

Ariel's third model takes the all-terrain car to another level. It's one of the best driving experiences we've ever had

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2. Caterham Seven 360R


There would very likely be no market for lightweight sports cars at all if not for the car whose bloodline flows into the indefatigable Caterham Seven.

The original Lotus Seven might even have been Colin Chapman’s greatest gift to the motoring world, and when Caterham Cars bought the rights to Chapman’s little lightweight special from him in 1973, it founded a business that has been indulging and nurturing true diehard driving enthusiasts ever since.

Since the demise of the 1.6-litre Ford Sigma-engined 310R, the more muscular 360R is the Seven that’s the sweetest spot in the line-up. Powered by the larger and more raucous 180 bhp 2.0-litre, it's a lightning quick and responsive performer, intake roar and exhaust bark adding to the heady sense of a near bottomless pit of on road performance.

Then there’s that fabulously communicative steering that allows the driver to work the tiny but wonderfully direct and immersive chassis, the Seven changing direction with fruit fly fleetness and the beautifully calibrated controls letting you direct your angle of attack into and out of corners with millimetric precision.

The S pack models have been tuned to the road, but the R’s extra control and limited slip diff are worth the extra outlay, especially as there’s no trade-off in everyday usability (and you should use your Seven everyday).

Of course there are more expensive, quicker versions of the Seven, plus the charming, skinny-tyred three-cylinder 170 models. But when it comes to balancing thrills, involvement and affordability, there is nothing that can match it.

3. Spartan


Could this be the best Australian export since Neighbours, Fosters or even our very own Steve Cropley? The brainchild of single-minded brothers Nick and Peter Pap, the Spartan is a road legal track day weapon aimed at potential Ariel Atom and Radical customers. 

Under carbon fibre bodywork that takes its cues from Sixties Can Am racers, the Spartan features a bespoke spaceframe chassis, double wishbone suspension and a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder Honda engine mounted amidships.

Here it delivers a heady 460bhp, which is a compact package weighing just 700kg results in sensational performance (how does 0-62mph in 2.3 seconds grab you?).  

We’ve only sampled the Spartan on track, but it was enough to confirm that this is a flyweight driver’s tool of rare ability. Instinctive, balanced and approachable handling means you can place the car just-so through corners, while the steering is as chatty as a daytime TV host and there’s genuine aero assistance to keep it swift and stable through fast sweeps.

It’s a remarkable first effort, and while £126,000 is a significant chunk of change, few cars offer as much adrenaline production per pound as this device from Down Under.

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4. Morgan Super 3


Like all the most characterful machines, the Morgan Super 3 is something of a contradiction. You look past the quaint pseudo vintage car styling and you’ll discover one of the most technically advanced and intriguing cars the Malvern manufacturer has created.

Crucially, it’s also a riot to drive, and like the best lightweights you don’t have to be driving like you’re fleeing an erupting volcano.

A clean sheet design, the Super 3 features a light and strong bonded aluminium chassis, plus bespoke double wishbone front suspension with springs and dampers actuated by an F1-style pullrod mechanism.

The old car’s V-twin motor has been dropped in favour of a naturally aspirated version of the Ford Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre three-pot motor which drives the single rear wheel through a Mazda MX-5 transmission.

Driving the Morgan is an experience unlike any other, its open cockpit and small aero screens giving you the feeling you’re piloting a bi-plance rather than a car.

It’s at its best when driven within its limits on typically twisty British back roads, where you quickly get drawn into the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone motor era.

Yet there’s genuine ability here, and provided you bear in mind the front end grip limitations of those skinny 135 section front tyres, the Morgan can be hustled hard and steering on the throttle is deliciously precise and progressive way.

It goes well too, the rev-happy triple singing its way from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds. 

This isn’t a car to use everyday, and at over £40,000 in basic trim it’s not cheap, but the exquisitely finished Super 3 will leave a smile on your face long after the ringing in your ears has stopped and you’ve picked all the flies from your teeth.

5. Ariel Nomad


How does a car with barely a trace of luxury or refinement in its DNA gain a five-star road-test rating?

The answer, of course, is by purveying greater enjoyment than arguably anything else on four wheels, and by bringing something so fresh and different to its particular market that you simply can’t ignore it – which is precisely what the Nomad, Ariel’s dune-buggy-like second model line, achieved when it was introduced in 2014.

On road, track or – best of all – loose ground, the Nomad is sensational not only in its technical prowess but the manner in which it doles out its stonking performance.

There’s also incredible ride quality here to match amazing long-travel body control, and what little there is of the Nomad is beautifully constructed. 

For the money – and perhaps much, much more – there’s nothing to touch it if your priority is pure driving pleasure delivered slightly differently.

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6. Wells Vertige


The history of motoring is littered with plucky British sports car start-ups that begin brightly before quickly sinking without a trace. Yet there’s every indication that this fate is unlikely to befall Wells and its vivacious Vertige. 

Designed to deliver accessible performance and invigorating handling rather than record breaking acceleration runs and liver crushing cornering forces, the light and compact mid-engined machine is a delight to drive.

Power comes from a tuned Ford 2.0-litre Duratec that delivers 208bhp, which in a car weighing just 850kg results in acceleration that’s quick without being white-knuckled. 

Better still is the handling, with communicative unassisted steering and a supple suspension set-up that allows the poised and adjustable Vertige breathe with the road surface.

And because there’s so little mass, the Wells flows down the road in a lithe neatness and neutrality that brings to mind the much missed Lotus Elise.

Despite that size zero kerbweight, the Vertige has space for two in its comprehensively equipped and well built cabin, plus refinement and comfort surprisingly strong - this is a car you could happily daily or tackle a road trip.

Wells plans to build around 25 units a year, and with a price between £40,000 and £50,000 it should have no problems finding takers.

7. BAC Mono R


Really, who needs a passenger? Especially when you can have a car like the stunning BAC Mono R, which feels like it’s been driven straight off a formula racing grid and offers a driving position that brings new meaning to the word ‘pure’, in a package that’s somehow entirely road-legal.

Although the skeletal Mono R looks similar to its Mono predecessor, BAC bosses, the Briggs brothers, claim it’s 90 percent new and even lighter at 555kg.

Even so, the design philosophy is the same, with a tubular spaceframe ‘safety cell’ core that’s covered in carbonfibre (graphene-enhanced, no less) panels with double wishbone suspension at each corner.

However, the mid-mounted 2.5-litre Ford engine and a six-speed sequential gearbox driving the rear wheels remain, but with the drop in mass and 342bhp output the BAC delivers an outrageous 613bhp per ton.

We’ve not driven the R yet, but it’s hard not to imagine it’ll be even more intense than the Mono. That car’s ability to cover ground at astonishing pace with such economy of movement truly is spellbinding, although the Mono is better still on the track, where its ultra-precise suspension can operate without hindrance from road imperfections. It’s as intense an experience as they come.

That said, it comes at a considerable price, the R costing nearly £200,000 before options Even so, the limited production run of 30 is reportedly already sold out.

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8. Dallara Stradale


If it is authenticity you crave, then names don’t come more ‘motorsport’ than that of Italian outfit Dallara.

The firm’s chassis expertise can be found in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E as well as a host of other high-profile series, and it’s that expertise that has been distilled into road-going form with the pretty Stradale.

What we’re dealing with is a screenless barchetta with a 395bhp Ford (yes, again) 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Dry weight? 855kg. Maximum downforce? 810kg, with the huge rear wing in place. 

To drive, this is a ferociously serious machine and one with superlative unassisted steering and a chassis that’s arrow-true – and one that can put you in a downforce-defined mode of full-immersion fever on track that few other cars can equal.

The brakes could be better and the engine more stirring for the money, but the Stradale is brilliant nonetheless.

9. MK Indy RX-5


On the surface, the Indy MK looks like another Caterham facsimile in the (glassfibre) mould of a Westfield or Robin Hood.

Yet the small British firm has gone its own way with the RX-5, which as its name alludes to uses a MK2 Mazda MX-5 donor for its running gear - making for some affordable and, likely, reliable weekend fun.

You can build the RX-5 yourself for as little as £8500 (plus a Mazda to cannibalise), but MK will also build you one for a shade under £19,000.

Although simple, quality is excellent and the Indy looks and feels like a thoroughly well engineered product. It drive like one too, its quick steering, low mass and well-sorted suspension allowing it to dart through corners with the telepathic keenness of, well, a Caterham

The combination of around 130bhp and 600kg, the RX-5 is potent enough to rinse most hot hatches in a straight line, not to mention murder them in the corners.

Yet those Mazda oily bits mean extra muscle is easily and reasonably cheaply easy to come buy, with Indy supplying a turbocharging upgrade that delivers 217bhp for around £4500. No it doesn’t have the cache of a Caterham, but for the most laugh-out-loud fun for your cash then nothing hits the mark like the MK.

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10. Mazda MX-5


James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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scrap 14 November 2023

Top 10 track cars?? A 1.5 MX5?!

This list is ridiculous.