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Trackday Cars Under £20,000 | Six of the best

Trackday Cars Under £20,000 |  Six of the best

Caterham Roadsport 1.8 VVC, 2003, 12k, £19,995

If track days are about lightweight (they are) then next to two-wheel options they’re not much lighter than a Caterham 7. So, as you’ve probably guessed, we’ve got one in the early doors. There’s not much on offer within our £20,000 budget, but of those out there, this one stood out. Partly it’s the color, which I know isn’t the primary concern, but come on: in yellow with Superlight decals, it looks absolutely stunning. More pertinently, at 12,000 miles so far it has done very light duty and comes with the 150 horsepower VVC engine and a six speed transmission. Yes, it’s a Roadsport, which doesn’t sound like the perfect track car, but no Caterham 7 is ill-equipped for track use. This one has a cage and four-point harnesses, and being a Roadsport it at least has a heater, big screen and full weather gear. That means you can get away without buying the Range Rover and the trailer to haul it to locations. JH

Renault Mégane RS Trophy, 2014, 60,000, £15,999

This is a personal favorite of mine. It’s not a patch for the listed lightweights and mid-engined cars, that’s true, but the Renault Megane RS Trophy is far from out of its depth on the track. You don’t doubt that. For starters, the 2.0-liter, 16-valve engine pushes out 275 horsepower. That’s more than enough, but if you disagree then there are plenty of tuning options available to take it to the next level. And it’s not just engine modifications, as there are all sorts of suspension and braking upgrades to choose from as well. But really, you don’t need to spend any extra money. By default, the RS Trophy will drive lap after lap taking the penalty. It has a fantastic front differential that delivers the traction and rotation needed to keep it feeling alive, but the chassis is playful rather than spiky. The Brembo brakes are superior and the Recaro seats huggable. It’s also a car that will put a big smile on your face as you drive to and from the track. And we know how important that is. JH

Lotus Elise Series I, 1999, 60,000 miles, £17,995

As you know, the Elise isn’t exactly packed with comfort, but if you’re looking for something really light (but find a Caterham 7 a bit too bulky) then an Elise seems like the ideal middleweight ground. And actually this Series I, with its cream leather seats, looks positively luxurious. Yet it is not a heavy car. By keeping the weight down to just 731kg, Lotus guaranteed that the original Elise felt like flying. With so little weight to move, it didn’t require much strength either. The compact 120bhp 1.8-litre K Series clog can still achieve a track-worthy 0-62mph time in six seconds. But it’s the balance and poise of the car that make it shine, and a benchmark for this sextet of trackside thrills. No one in their right mind drives an Elise without falling in love with its composure and connectedness, all thanks to a rigid aluminum fairing, double wishbones at every corner and pure, unassisted steering. JH

Riley Eleven, 1968, 28k, £19,995

If there’s a car for sale on PH right now that promises more entertainment, we haven’t seen it yet. Once upon a time there was a Riley Elf, and it’s hard to imagine a less likely track car. But then it was closely related to the Mini underneath, and we all know what great little tin-top racers they made. This Elf now promises hours of fun on the track with a Lynx AE conversion; meaning it is now powered by a 175 horsepower Yamaha R1 engine. In a car that can’t weigh more than a few hundred pounds, it must be hilariously fast. Especially with brakes, suspension and tires all upgraded as well. In fact, the Riley is so expertly crafted that its two-year conversion to Lynx specification has won awards. Not that you care as you tear past Porsches on track… MB

Porsche Cayman S, 2007, 77k, £14,995

Speaking of Porsches, this list would hardly be complete without one. After all, there’s a reason why every track day is crammed with GT3s, GT4s, Club Sports and Spyders: they’re brilliant. But they are also expensive – this Cayman generally is not. It is an original 3.4 S with manual gearbox, lots of history and no boredom. Recent work on the suspension and braking means it should stop and turn as good as ever. It should actually be really, really nice to drive. They always were. And if you think ‘nice’ doesn’t really cut it in track cars with a motor-engined Riley, we get it, which is why this Porsche is £5,000 under budget. That should be enough for a good seat, some sticky tires and maybe an exhaust to make the most of that six-cylinder howl. Then he is well on his way to a real track day Porsche. MB

BMW M240i, 2017, 48k, £20,995

Yes, a modest M Performance 2 Series instead of the M2 – they’re still out of this budget. While the 240i may look a bit ordinary in this business, all is not as it seems, with a few tweaks that should improve its performance on the road and track. It benefits from a Quaife limited slip differential, Bilstein coilovers and M3 lower wishbones, all of which will help take full advantage of the engine’s ample reserves in a way the standard 2 Series couldn’t quite cope. Speaking of which, the 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder fitted here has been treated to Litchfield’s stage one tune, which should mean over 430bhp – more than an M2 Competition. And it’s a manual car, with a short-shift kit. You want to go, right? It may not seem like much, but it promises a lot of fun – just as important on the track as going fast. MB