Review: Ginetta G56 GTA
The girlfriend experience. We’ve all thought about it, wondered if we could afford it or if we really wanted it, wondered about the possible consequences if we pulled the trigger. I’m here to tell you … it depends on what you really want.
I’ve done about 68 track days, in cars including: 2011 Lotus Evora, naturally aspirated, manual; 2017 Lotus Evora 400, supercharged, automatic; 2005 Lotus Elise, manual (the only kind that exists); 2003 Toyota MR2 Spyder manual; 2019 C7 Corvette Grand Sport, automatic; with a couple of days in a 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 automatic and 2016 Scion FR-S automatic. I’ve also driven a few laps in a 991 Porsche GT3, a Lotus 211, and a Vuhl 05 ROC. I’m pretty good with the Elise, and even better with the Grand Sport because the latter is super easy to drive fast, so long as you keep the traction control on.
Except for the Lotus 211 and the Vuhl 05 ROC, all of my previous track day experience is with street cars, some lightly modified for track use (e.g., tires, brake pads, suspension upgrades, harnesses). I’ve always wanted to drive something like a Spec Miata, or maybe a Miata Cup car. Something I felt that I could really afford to send on track. But, well, I didn’t really want a Miata. Porsche cup cars are awesome, but then we’re talking beaucoup bucks. When I first got wind of this new Ginetta, I was thinking maybe Goldilocks has arrived and found the one that’s just right. But what’s just right, the porridge, the chairs or the beds?
The car looks great, not to be mistaken for anything else. Do you want a car that everybody will check out at your next track day? This is it. It’s an effin’ racecar!
Climbing into the Ginetta isn’t much harder than it is with a Lotus Elise, maybe easier because the steering wheel is removable (I’m almost 5′ 10″). The seating position is snug, of course, and the 6-point harnesses nothing unusual. (Protip: If you’re used to 4-point harnesses or regular seat belts, then make sure to arrange your bits and pieces before they cinch you down!) You sit down low in the car, and visibility is not the best, with a large A-pillar. Out on the track, the rear spoiler made it hard to see the cars coming up on me through the rear-view mirror, but that’s true of any car with a big spoiler. With more experience, confidence, and pace, not so many cars would have been coming up on me!
The F1 style steering wheel is really attractive/cool/fun, especially if it’s the first time you’ve used one — makes you feel in control. The only steering-wheel button they let me touch was the one with an N for Neutral. Power switch on, then press the start button. Paddle shift into first gear, let out the clutch, stall.
Repeat that last step several times. Yeah, I stalled it a six-pack of times just trying to start moving. “Feather the clutch” here means “don’t even let off on the clutch!” It reminded me of teaching my kids stick in a 1999 Isuzu Rodeo.
Are you looking for a car that will give you faster lap times at your usual track days? This would do it, if you can be a good enough driver. If you’ve only ever driven a modern sports car like an automatic BMW M3 or a Porsche GT car, then it may be a rude awakening. Do you want to take the time to learn to drive (fast) without all of the aids? I followed Ginetta’s pro in my Grand Sport and I could not keep up through the corners. I was both impressed and little depressed. I’d be real curious to know how the two would compare with the same driver. I’ve not been able to find comparable lap times online, but all of the reviews claim it will beat all of the McLarens, etc., out there at a track day.
For many, this will not be a car they can learn quickly if coming from a modern sports car (or sports sedan) with good traction/stability control and ABS. The Ginetta was supplied to me on street tires (although really good ones: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S), and it will start sliding on you real quick. You may have a memorable pucker moment if you overestimate your abilities. Indeed, the guy before me (an experienced driver) took it off track and so they had to give the Ginetta a very thorough check and test drive before I could have my turn. It turned out to be no worse for the wear, but, unfortunately, that little excursion cut my track time in half. With the 10 minutes or so I did have, I could glimpse the horizon, but definitely not see beyond.
If you’re coming from an old Miata, then you will probably be fine, but watch out for the power delivery, which can catch you by surprise mid-corner. Trail braking is good, but be careful until you learn the feel of the unassisted brakes. They will stop you on a dime, but you need to modulate with firm pressure.
Do you want serious safety built in to your track days? Of course this has it, with full cage and fire suppression. Are you more comfortable in a closed-cabin car? Again, check. Those things rightly make you feel more confident, and should speed the learning process. But it will still be a process.
Are you wanting to compete in wheel-to-wheel racing? Well, then this may be your ticket if they get the series off the ground here in the U.S. Supposedly, they have already sold six Ginetta G56 GTAs to members at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch (SMMR), and maybe more after the weekend visit. They have a track support arrangement in place. So SMMR may be doing their own races. We shall see. You could also do SCCA (not sure of the category), NASA or others, such as our local AROSC at Willow Springs.
The sensory (overload) experience will be unfamiliar. You’ve got the wonderful sounds of an engine revving, which will be familiar, but then there’s the ka-thunk of the gear changes, and the heat (despite air conditioning) inside the closed cabin with windows that don’t open. It takes some of your bandwidth, again making it harder to learn quickly. On the other hand, the sounds of the gear shifts were very satisfying and helped with the feeling of being in control.
Obviously, you’ll need to take it to the track: not even a deep red state is going to let you license this puppy for street use. (Here in Ohio, I think it could be done — JB) As for maintenance, the major pieces of body work come off easily to allow quick access (as I witnessed and can be seen in the accompanying photos). I was told the engines are pretty bullet-proof. The transmission has a rebuild time of 60 hours, and it’s a common unit. Ginetta already has a couple of dealers in the U.S., including InoKinetic / Blackshadow Motors from southern California, who hosted the track weekend at SMMR. Getting pointed to an approved service facility should not be an issue.
This is really one of those cars you must test drive before pulling the trigger. Fortunately, Ginetta North America is generous that way, though you will likely need to travel a fair distance to get the chance.
The Ginetta G56 GTA will make you feel like you’re driving a real racecar… because you are. But I suspect that any average driver would be faster in something like a used Porsche GT3. So, when it comes to deciding on your next track day toy, I’ll end with a Dirty Harry quote: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Specifications from Ginetta
3.7L V6 Ford Engine with dry sump and race clutch (270 BHP)
Top speed 140 MPH
Weight 2,400 pounds
High performance race suspension and brakes
Paddle shifted 6 speed Quaife helical gearbox with auto-blip
ATL 15 gallon fuel cell running 93 Octane pump fuel
20” Wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires
MOTEC LCD race dash
VBOX Lite in car data and video system
Many thanks to Baer Conrad at Ginetta North America and Shinoo Mapleton at InoKinetic for arranging the test drive.