Review: GT4 racers head-to-head

Review: GT4 racers head-to-head
Review: GT4 racers head-to-head

We take to Silverstone aboard a McLaren 570S GT, Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Porsche Cayman GT4 and Ginetta G55

In a four-car group test, normally we’d have enough on our hands without comparing our chosen quartet with others from the outside.

But this is no normal group test. Here we are with four GT4 cars – and we’ve got them at Silverstone, on a public track day.

What this means is that if our fab four turn out not to have what it takes, it’s going to show right up. And when we’re sharing the track with everything from an Ariel Atom to a LaFerrari, that’s a real concern.

Our quartet consists of a McLaren 570S GT4, Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Porsche Cayman GT4 and Ginetta G55. These follow the basic GT4 pattern: remove interior, add aero kit, bolt on race suspension, fit slicks and go.

The idea behind GT4 is that by motorsport standards, it’s affordable. These cars qualify for a wide variety of race series and endurance events, and an increasing number of manufacturers are cashing in on the formula’s burgeoning popularity by bringing out suitably prepped vehicles.

Ginetta G55

gt4-cars-web-072

There’s an oddity here, though. The Porsche, Aston and McLaren are all based on road cars, but the Ginetta G55 is an out-and-out racer. Thus it’s much lighter – and, with its 3.7-litre V6 engine turning a straight-cut racing box, its cramped cabin is a cacophonous little place in which to find yourself.

With 355bhp, it’s the least powerful car here. But only the Balance of Performance regs used in GT4 racing to maintain a level field prevent it from being the fastest by some way. And despite being the only one here without ABS, it’s the best of the lot under braking. It’s agile, balanced to perfection and every inch the racer.

Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin Vantage

The Aston is a proper racer too – a full digi dash and a dozen traction settings make that clear. Its V8 engine sounds thunderous through its race exhausts, and its size and weight are perfectly suited to Silverstone – it understeers on the way in and oversteers on the way out, but it does so with such a lack of treachery that you come out feeling like a driving god. There are cars that could go faster by being more savage, but you’d need to be a very good driver indeed to access that extra pace.

Porsche Cayman

Porsche Cayman

If the Aston is at home around Silverstone, however, the Cayman GT4 feels as if it would do its best work on a smaller, tighter circuit. Its ability to take corners is so huge, other cars on the track seem like static obstacles.

Yet this isn’t even the finished article. Porsche is still developing the fully homologated GT4, which will be lighter and faster than the ClubSport model we drove – and if this experience is anything to go by, what a car it’s going to be.

McLaren 570S

McLaren 570S

What a car, though, the McLaren 570S GT4 already is. Those Balance of Performance regs mean it’s governed down to 429bhp, but it still feels like being on the inside of a rugby ball that’s just been booted over some far distant set of posts.

But what really impresses is its cornering. The speed you can carry on the way in practically defies physics, its composure under braking is absolute and you can even straighten out the corners by mowing your way over kerbs without the suspension registering an upset.

As we’ve mentioned, the GT4 formula is designed for amateur racers, so in a way it’s a criticism of the 570S to say it’s the one you’d take longest to learn your way into. But it’s also the one that would best reward your efforts, because herein lies the greatest potential to unlock.

Verdict

That potential doesn’t make the McLaren the winner, though, because there isn’t one. Each of these cars is supreme in its own way.

Give me the keys to all four, and I’d head for the McLaren – unless I was using it for a 24-hour race, in which it would be the Aston. The Cayman is the perfect step up from track days to proper competition, meanwhile – but this is meant to be an affordable place to go racing, and nothing is as competitive for the cash as the Ginetta.

So many choices, then. But here’s a final thought to boggle your mind, if you think GT4 sounds like a lot of hot air. You know that Ariel Atom we mentioned at the outset? And that LaFerrari? What do they have in common?

The answer is that every one of the four cars you see here left them for dead. Them and everything else at Silverstone that day. Time to take GT4 very seriously…

GT4 head-to-head

Review: SsangYong Turismo

A great deal of space for not a great deal of money. Is that a good deal?In our vehicles, particularly if we’re thinking of family transport,

Living with: Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

Can Alfa Romeo really make a BMW M3-beater?There’s nothing like living with a car to find out what it’s really like. The road testers

Review: Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus

There are some surprising oversights but they don’t stop Audi’s stunning drop-top appealingYou could save yourself £25,000

Review: Porsche 911 GT2 RS

A racing driver describes this 911 as ‘ridiculous’. ExcellentThere we were, minding our own business at Silverstone, when the winner