As tempting as buying a cool racing car might be, the pitfalls usually outweigh any benefits, too stiffly sprung for anything other than mirror smooth surface, and too tiresome to drive at regular speeds. Despite those niggling doubts, we want one, who wouldn't jump at the chance of driving the ultimate racer?
Ask any gearhead lucky enough to experience a track day where the merely good play second fiddle to serious machinery, a race car would undoubtedly be king of the circuit. Great if you're behind the wheel, less so if you're the one being blitzed lap after lap. Now if you happen to have your own private track, that's a different matter, otherwise, the dream of race car ownership could turn out to be a nightmare.
10 Buy It - A Chance To Own A Piece Of History
Formula 1 race cars rarely come up for sale, even then, there are a few caveats to buying your own racer. Usually, older historic models, depending on budget, can vary from pure static examples that were built for display purposes only, through to complete rolling chassis and engines.
Red 5 as driven by Nigel Mansell can be had for as little as $25k if you're only interested in a mock-up display car, through to an eye watering $2.7 million for one with race provenance. Gearheads with deep enough pockets can bag themselves a complete car with Renault's RS3C 3.5-liter V10 slung out the back.
9 Avoid It - Never Ending Money Pit
Having caught the racing bug, it's time to live up to the reality, competition use gets expensive very quickly. Austrian based carmaker KTM offers several variants on the X-bow, from ready-to-run off the shelf up to the GT4 package, each coming with a higher price tag.
If purchases prices alone are not enough to deter the average gearhead, a quick itemizing of consumables surely will. Most race meets easily consume a set of slick and costly tires, brakes, and a tank of competition fuel.
8 Buy It - Le Mans Cars Are Easier And More Practical
Single seaters can still be had in ready to run condition, this recently restored Reynard Judd V10 LMP1 racer comes complete with a new 5.5-liter V10 punching out 650 hp, and, unlike in its racing days, it can use conventional pump gas.
Proudly boasting several race achievements, in 2004 attaining the highest top speed at Le Mans 24 hr while running entirely on renewable fuels as well as being the first FIA homologate LMP1 car.
7 Avoid It - Road To Racer Is Possible, Race To Road Car Less So
Pretty much any car can be made to go faster, corner better by stripping away weight and upping the power output. Ferrari’s 599 GTB offers 612 hp courtesy of a naturally aspirated 6-liter V12.
Reversing the process is harder, the more extreme 599XX comes in at 645 lbs less, produces 720 hp in a lowered stiffer chassis known for its unforgiving handling. Any gearheads with crazy ideas of modifying the 599XX for road use should have the license confiscated immediately.
6 Buy It - Owners Are Encouraged To Participate In Development
Ferrari's ownership comes with a slew of rules owners must obey, but when you're talking about handing over $2.6 million for a rare track-only supercar, that once you've finished playing for the day Ferrari take away, it's a tough pill to swallow. In effect, owners of the FXX K are development drivers, Ferrari keeping cars under lock and key.
However, the FXX K is the fastest Ferrari car ever made, boasting a 6.3-liter V12 coupled with F1 derived KERS to deliver a combined output of 1036 hp, top speed reported in the region of 217 mph.
5 Avoid It - Race Car = Sky-High Insurance Premiums
Motorsports are dangerous, no matter how safe designers build cars, racing at 200 mph speeds separated by mere feet, crashes are inevitable and costly.
Calling your local insurance broker for cover on a road-legal 911 Turbo is going to be expensive, now change Porsche for race car, and you'll be lucky to get any quotes, those that do fancy you as a safe bet will be charging an arm and a leg. We're using NASCAR as an example, but as a rule of thumb, premiums for any motorsport are stupidly high.
4 Buy It - Track Only Can Bypass US Federal Laws
Fancy a late model Lotus Exige? If you're reading this in the US, sorry, but you're out of luck, Lotus being the specialist carmaker that it is didn't or couldn't squeeze the Exige through federal safety tests. However, there is a small loop-hole that allows "track certified" cars to be legally imported specifically for track use.
Which is fine with us, that just means the Exige Cup is lighter, stuffer and faster around a lap. Under the rear hood you get a supercharged 3.5 liter V6 putting out 430 hp in a chassis weighing 2400 lbs, flat out capable of 174 mph. Lotus aren't usually renowned for their generosity, but in an ironic twist of fate, track-only makes the Exige even better.
3 Avoid It - Lack Of Spares / Service Support
Sticking with the awesome Exige Cup, picking up one of these rare limited edition track only cars comes with another issue, popping down to your local Lotus Dealer for small items common across the Elise range is quick and easy.
Needing something exclusive to the Exige is another matter, remembering Lotus only produced a handful for enthusiast drivers in the US, finding spares could be tricky, or at the vert least a test of patience while your dealer sources the required items from the UK. It's a problem for many imported track specials, one that can leave you awaiting a courier delivery.
2 But It - More Noise
Unrestricted by noise muffling baffles and a legal requirement to protect the hearing of passers-by, the Zonda R delivers an ear-splitting V12 soundtrack. Tucked away behind the cockpit, Mercedes-AMG sourced engines dish out 740 hp propelling its occupants to sixty in 2.7-seconds, with a top speed of 263 mph.
We've heard loud engines before, F1 V10s arguably one of the greatest noises you'll ever come across, but even these exotics fail to live up to the Zonda R where more noise in our opinion is a good thing. The Zonda R delivers and then some, screaming to its top speed is addictive, but beware, at some circuits deemed too loud and banned.
1 Avoid It - A Time And Place For Everything
So far we've looked at reasons for and against buying a racing car, if you have gotten this far and ignored all the downsides, we have one more for you. Porsche's 911 looks fine the way it is, an evolutionary design that most passers-by barely notice.
Even Porsche's own modified specials manage to somehow fit in, but taking things to the next level, this 9ff GT9 is unquestionably a race car thinly disguised for road use. It's going to get noticed for sure, but not in a good way, with huge grilles and vents adorning almost every panel, on a track no one would care, on public roads it looks a bit tacky. And for those still undeterred, the 9ff GT9 packs a twin turbocharged 4-liter flat six kicking out 750 hp.