Vote for the best track car of the last 25 years!

From Ariel to Zenos, time to get voting on your best circuit superstars since 1998

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 2 May 2023 / Loading comments

And just like that, the finish line is on the horizon for the PH25 videos. Hot hatch, sports car and saloon are now done, with just supercar – and the epic group test finale – to follow. But that’s after one very, very important fourth category: the best track car since 1998. Should be a good one, this.

The entire scene has experienced a total explosion in popularity over the past quarter of a century. Back then track days were cones on airfields (in a lot of cases), which was handy anyway as your average road car couldn’t take more than a couple of miles of circuit driving without wilting. Now look where we are, with hot hatches lapping the Nordschleife in comfortably less than 8 minutes, Porsche selling a 911 as fast as a Cup car and even onboard apps that can make you a quicker track driver. Fast road cars have always existed, but the focus on circuit ability has been a real 21st century phenomenon, and it’s produced some incredible machinery in the process. If it’s got stripes, plastic windows, carbon seats, super sticky tyres and a virtual tax disc, it’s probably going to be in this list. Probably going to be absolutely brilliant, too.

Back in the late 90s we were still a few months from the first Lotus Exige and the Ariel Atom was launching with modest K-Series power. Both those cars are the perfect example of how the breed has evolved through the 21st century, with Hethel’s little Group C wannabe morphing into the wild Cup 430 by 2017, just about the fastest thing on track with a manual gearbox and treaded tyres. The Ariel eventually became offered with a V8 (!), and in its most recent iteration the Atom 4 is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding road and track cars yet created. All that’s happened since 1998.

There’s plenty more besides, just in case the vote wasn’t difficult enough. Not so long ago the idea of a hot hatch for track was some kind of stock car racer, but with the introduction of the Megane R26.R a decade and a half ago an entire sub-genre of giant killing grocery getters was created. Proof that a driven front axle can be as epic as the other one (or both), those hatchback heroes not seen in the previous vote are most certainly in contention here. Just like those folk who’ve ignored them in the pitlane only to be passed on the second lap, discount the likes of the Golf GTI Clubsport S at your peril.

We’ve got the favourites here, too, fear not. There really is little beating the circuit optimised supercar, one that brings together all the drama and theatre of the genre with an unforgettable driving experience. The advent of ceramic brakes, dual-clutch gearboxes, adaptive damper technology and amazing track tyres has created a generation of exotica faster than anyone could have possibly imagined not so long ago. In the 1990s a Lamborghini was for posing; nowadays it’s a surprise if the latest Superveloce or Performante doesn’t claim a lap record. Similarly for AMG: the first Black Series sports car was rubbish, and the most recent lapped the Nurburgring faster than a GT2 RS. For those wealthy enough, the past few years has produced a glut of awesome supercars that are fearsomely capable, completely addictive to drive fast and still wear numberplates. Or are meant to, at least Good luck choosing between them…

This isn’t just a supercar playground, however, as we’ve also got the lightweight great Brits deemed a little too hardcore for the sports car vote. There’s been nothing better in the dawn of the track day age than harassing a stripped out supercar in a flyweight rascal that’s costs as much as the bigger car’s circuit pack. Those who’ve had the pleasure will know exactly how great that feeling is, and why those humble sports car that rely on very little weight and a surfeit of power are just as deserving of your vote as any other.

Undoubtedly, this is going to be a difficult vote. From GT3 RS to Speciale and Longtail to Trophy-R, the voting list for road legal track car is an embarrassment of riches, perhaps more than any other. The process will remain the same, however, with a week from today to pick your three best track cars since 1998. Think very carefully! We’ll then tot up the votes cast to discover the winner, get hold of the best one we can, organise a circuit and (hopefully) some sunshine, then produce another PH25 vid for the collection as we hurtle towards August’s birthday bonanza. Expect that in a few weeks’ time. And where our previous winners had felt like reasonably safe bets from the outset, track car feels a much tougher call – it really could be anything. No pressure, then…

See the list and get voting here!

  • GR Yaris wins best hot hatch of the past 25 years
  • Lotus Elise wins best sports car of the past 25 years

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