Skills and Knowledge
Best track day and autocross cars
When someone says "track car", the cars above are often what people think of. Exotic, sleek, and expensive sheet metal designed to eat asphalt for breakfast. This imagery fuels the idea that track racing is inaccessible to all but the ultra-rich.
This conception cannot be more false. In fact, racing is best learnt on cheap, low-powered machines you can easily explore the limits of. You might be surprised to know that virtually all F1 drivers began their careers on go karts.
If you've spent any time road racing, you'll have heard the adage, "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow". You'll learn faster driving a slow car at its max potential than driving a fast car and not coming close to its limits.
The perfect track car is... the car you already own?
A relatively light sedan, coupe, or convertible of any brand/model is a great candidate for a starting track car. If you already own a car of this ilk, good news! You can start tracking it with relatively little prep and cost (a convertible will require a bit more work since you should have a rollbar).
Of course, you should never track a car you can’t afford to lose, but many people have found success tracking their daily drivers. For first-timers, it’s totally okay to take your stock Honda Accord or Ford Fusion to the track - nobody will judge. In fact, it’s a great idea to try out the track with minimal commitment first before buying any mods or a new car.
How much wear and tear would I be adding to my car?
A common concern is that if you track your own car, you’re putting a lot of wear on it, and most people don’t want to have to spend money and time on more repairs.
Thankfully, modern-day cars are designed to tolerate many times more stress than their regular usage. As long as you take the minimum preparations in
What if you’re in a market for a new car?
If you’re looking to buy a beginner track car, you can't go wrong with an affordable, low-powered, lightweight car. Take a look at the list of our recommended cars below.
Affordable starter track cars
Mazda Miata NA / NB (1st and 2nd Gen)
✅ THE beginner track car ✅ Awesome driving dynamics ✅ Reliable ✅ Amazing aftermarket support ✅ Huge community ✅ Can easily find ones already built for track 🔴 Very small, not suitable for big drivers 🔴 Will need roll bar installed for track
Mazda Miata NC (3rd Gen)
✅ Becoming more affordable than NA/NB Miatas due to unpopularity ✅ More power than other Miata models 🔴 Heavy compared to other Miata generations 🔴 Smaller aftermarket compared to other Miata generations
Toyota GT 86 / Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ (1st Gen)
✅ Lightweight and nimble ✅ Sharp handling ✅ Athletic stance ✅ Reliable ✅ Great aftermarket support ✅ Used car prices are very affordable 🔴 Below-average visibility 🔑 Toyota 86 was sold as Scion FR-S from 2012-16
BMW E36 3 Series / M3
✅ Strong engine ✅ Spacious ✅ Great aftermarket support ✅ Comes in sedan form 🔴 Less reliable than other options 🔴 Parts are more expensive 🔑 M3 is the model to get
BMW E46 3 Series (Non-M3)
✅ Very refined ✅ Confidence-inspiring handling ✅ Athletic stance ✅ Great aftermarket support ✅ Barely more expensive than the E36 🔴 Heavier than the E36 🔴 More complex than the E36 = less reliable 🔑 330i / 330Ci ZHP is the model to get 🔑 Less raw than the other cars on this list, great as a daily driver / track car hybrid
Honda Civic (Non-Type R)
✅ Lightweight and agile ✅ Very reliable and affordable ✅ Amazing aftermarket support ✅ Easily double duties as a daily driver 🔴 Not much power, more of a momentum car 🔑 Si models have stronger engines 🔑 FWD is not a bad thing, just different driving dynamics 🔑 Modern civics (besides the Type R) are less performance-focused than older generations, but they work great for beginners
Subaru Impreza WRX / STI (2nd and 3rd Gen)
✅ Powerful boxer engine ✅ Light for an AWD car ✅ Great aftermarket support ✅ Easily double duties as a daily driver 🔴 Stock brakes inadequate for repeated track days 🔑 AWD puts down power and handles poor conditions well 🔑 Keep the motor oil fresh
$20,000 to $40,000
Mazda Miata ND (4th Gen)
✅ More modern feel and features compared to other Miatas 🔴 More expensive than other Miata models
Toyota GR 86 / Subaru BRZ (2nd Gen)
✅ Better, more powerful engine than the 1st gen car ✅ Negligible weight gain from 1st gen ✅ Capable car with suspension modifications like camber 🔴 Same weaknesses as the 1st gen 🔴 Potential oil starvation issue as of 2023 🔑 In a nutshell, this is a more refined version of the 1st gen
✅ Great driving mechanics and feel ✅ Reliable ✅ Good aftermarket support ✅ Huge community 🔴 Prices are rising 🔴 May require a rollbar or hardtop 🔴 Truck drivers might not see you
BMW E90 / E92 3 Series (Non-M3)
✅ Very refined and luxurious ✅ Durable platform, less susceptible to major issues than previous generations ✅ Good aftermarket support ✅ Barely more expensive than the E46 🔴 Heaviest car on this list 🔴 Uses a lot of consumables (fuel, tires, brake pads)
Chevrolet Corvette (C5 and C6)
✅ LS engine is very stout and reliable ✅ Massive power and speed, especially in Z06 models ✅ Great aftermarket support 🔴 Big power means heavy consumables usage 🔴 Not the most reliable car 🔑 Many consider this the next step up after mastering the slower Miata
Camaro SS 1LE
✅ Most capable track car on this list in stock form ✅ 1LE’s magical magnetic suspension makes the car feel lighter than it is ✅ Has one of the best manual transmissions in modern cars 🔴 Consumables will be more pricey than most other cars on this list 🔴 Poor visibility 🔑 Get the manual 🔑 Camaros will most likely be discontinued after 2024
Word of advice
At your first event, it's very possible you'll see Porsches, high end BMWs, and other exotic sports cars. You might feel like your car doesn't belong, but that can't be more false. Remember you're not there to show off your car or set the fastest lap. You're there to learn how to race and to have fun, and you'll be better equipped to do both in a slower car than a faster one.