Everyone loves to see cars that are familiar to them on a racetrack. There are plenty of race car specific racing disciplines out there to watch but watching cars similar to your own can be just as exciting. Some of the best racing can indeed be done in road legal cars.
The 10 best road legal cars for racing are:
- BAC Mono
- KTM X-Bow
- Nissan GTR Nismo
- Mazda MX-5 Miata
- Volkswagen Golf GTI/R
- BMW M2 Competition
- Lotus Evora GT
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
- Honda Civic Type R
- Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86
There are a few factors that you will need to consider when it comes to looking for the perfect road legal race car. We will cover these in more detail, including the main pros and cons of each of these cars below.
Factors To Consider For Road Legal Race Cars
There are a few important factors you need to look at when you want to buy a track car. The first is the cost of the car. A more expensive car will naturally cost more to maintain as well. Since it will be used as a race car, maintenance will be really important. Other costs to consider are the running costs, and this can include the costs of maintenance, repairs and how heavy the car is on fuel usage.
If you want to find a cheap road legal car for racing, you can look at demo models. These are generally models that have been used in the dealership’s showroom and they’ll only have a couple of hundred miles on the clock. However, because they are considered ‘second hand’ their prices are significantly reduced compared to the brand-new models.
The other option is of course to just buy second-hand. The issue here is that we are looking at performance cars. You never know what the previous owner did with the car and how fast they actually drove it.
This means there could be some worn parts on the engine or the chassis, or there could even be some damage somewhere else. Try going to a dealership to buy second-hand since they do thorough checks and testing on all second-hand cars they purchase to ensure that they are in good condition to then resell.
Race cars also need constant maintenance, and they need to be taken care of unless you want to end up with hefty repair bills. If you want to save yourself a lot of money you should try and do the maintenance yourself. There’s a ton of YouTube channels and online resources that can help guide you through the maintenance of your car.
Not only will you be saving money on a mechanic, but you will also be learning about your own car. That way if anything goes wrong in the future, you will have a better idea of how to fix it thanks to your experience, without having to immediately take it to the garage. So, let’s discuss briefly the reason for our choices below, and then go into more detail about each car.
A Note On Our List
Of course, not everyone can afford a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, so we want to make this list as reasonable as possible. We have thus only included the kind of cars you are more likely to see on the roads (for the most part!). We will be recommending cars based on a limited budget, and not over the top hypercars.
Not Necessarily Cheap
With that being said, these cars are by no means ‘cheap’, but there are some shortcuts you can take in order to get them at a cheaper price. When you consider that race cars can take a lot of damage, you definitely don’t want to buy the newest version of the top of the range model. This is why it is helpful to consider the tips above about buying from dealerships.
In addition, we all already know that the supercars and hypercars are great for racing and track days. What we are looking for are some hidden gems that most people never expected or knew about. They might not be the fastest or the best looking, but in a race or on a track day, you’ll definitely have a lot of fun with all of the cars on our list.
The 10 Best Road Legal Cars To Race
1. BAC Mono
The BAC Mono, as the second part of the name suggests, is a single seater car. If you have ever wanted to drive a Formula 1 car into a McDonald’s drive through, this is the closest you’ll get to it. While it is unorthodox, it is both road legal and very exciting.
There’s no other car like this, and that is why it makes the number one spot on this list. The BAC Mono is unique, is a fully-fledged race car, and you can drive it (legally) on the road. Of course, there are some downsides. You can’t bring anyone with you as there’s no passenger seat, and there’s no space for you to put any groceries, and you also need to carry a helmet around with you.
But if you take it out on track, you will feel like you’re driving a Formula 1 car. You get an incredible track day experience that no other car can provide you with. It’s extremely lightweight and can throw itself around the track with ease.
The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is tuned up to produce 305 horsepower. However, with the body of the car weighing only 1190 pounds, it can easily challenge any popular supercar and beat them in a race too.
A Pricey Option
Unfortunately, this Formula 1-esque car also comes at a huge cost of around $200,000, which is still less than most Lamborghinis and Ferraris. It’s by far the most expensive car on this list, but still worth the top spot. The BAC Mono is almost sure to also be turning more heads than a Ferrari when it drives down the street, which is always a bonus.
- True race car experience
- Collectors car
- Unimaginably fast
- No passenger seat
- No cargo space
2. KTM X-Bow
KTM is a motorcycle company that has now tried their hand at building a track car – the X-Bow, sometimes called the Crossbow. This car has exceptional downforce and grip due to its aerodynamic package, and it is incredibly fun to drive and extremely quick too. Plus, it comes with a manual gearbox, which makes it that bit more fun to drive.
A Powerful Machine
You can drive it on the roads, but you will need to wear a helmet when you do since it is an open cockpit car. The older models of the KTM X-Bow have a 2.0-liter turbocharged Audi engine that produces 237 horsepower, while the 2012 and onwards models have a 2.5-liter engine capable of 300 BHP, meaning both while give you a brilliant experience out on the track.
This outstanding piece of engineering will cost you around $88,000, so while it is not quite as expensive as the Mono listed in first place, it is still not exactly cheap. With its unorthodox appearance, you will definitely still grab the attention of your fellow racers that’s for sure.
- Race car experience
- Fast, agile, with lots of grip
- Attention-grabbing car
- Open cockpit
- No cargo space
- 1 passenger seat
3. Nissan GT-R Nismo
When the Nissan GTR first released it was known as the cheapest supercar money can buy. That’s because this monstrous machine from Nissan was faster than most Ferraris and Lamborghinis at the time, but it is also much cheaper. The newer models are spectacular looking too, while still keeping that classic GTR feel.
You can benefit from Alcantara interiors on the newer models too, and when you combine that with slick black alloys straight out of the factory and a set of Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, you will really feel like you are in a race car. If that’s not enough, Nissan offer a track edition of the Nismo too, with tuned suspension and a carbon fiber spoiler.
The new GTR is a legend in its own right, and it is also a magnificent race car. The twin turbo V6 engine produces 600 horsepower which will get you around 18 MPG. The GTR is amazingly fast for its caliber and it still holds up despite not being updated for a few years now. The price range for the GTR is between $110,000 and $210,000, so once again it is on the high end of the price scale.
- Supercar-like speed
- Big engine
- Iconic car
4. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 has always been a favorite for amateur racing drivers around the world. They are extremely popular at track days and club races and for good reason. The Miata is essentially built for the track, being small, lightweight and nimble, which gives it fantastic cornering ability, and you will not look out of place with such an iconic car at your command.
This car has been around in various forms since 1989, and so it is definitely a good choice for those looking to combine classic race car look and feel with the thrill of a day at the track. It is the best-selling two-seater sports car of all time, and that is no surprise when you see the price tag and the power offered by this little machine.
The Miata features a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine which produces 181 horsepower. Because of the lightweight body, that power is put to excellent use, allowing the Miata to feel comparably faster than other cars with similar BHPs. It starts at around $26,000, making it one of the cheapest cars on this list, and it will get you 25 MPG which is on par with that of the Golf GTI below.
- Very fun to drive
- Iconic car
- Limited space
5. Volkswagen Golf GTI/R
Volkswagen has a long history in the motoring industry. However, they have not always been known for making incredible track cars, until now. The Golf GTI and R models have been known as exceptional racing cars since the Mark 6 edition was released back in 2009.
The latest models feature a four-wheel drive system that is out of this world. Every car review mentions this feature because it allows the Golf to corner so much faster than it perhaps should given its size and shape. Essentially, you can throw the Golf into a corner at extremely high speeds and the four-wheel drive system will make it stick to the road at unbelievable speeds.
At the same time, these are also excellent cars for daily use, providing a lot of space for passengers and cargo, possibly being the most practical car on this list. The GTI is also very fuel efficient and will get you around 25 MPG, with the newest editions of the Golf R getting more than 30 MPG, making it the most fuel efficient car on this list.
Good Price For The Power
The Golf R will cost you about $40,000 and it features a 2.0-liter turbo engine that puts out around 288 horsepower. Thus, you are getting a lot of power for a relatively low price, and with the practicality aspect of either of the Golf models, this is a brilliant option for those that are looking for the best of both worlds as a daily driver and a handy track car.
- Fuel efficient
- Reasonable price
- Superb grip
- Spacious interior
- Engine could be more powerful
6. BMW M2 Competition
The BMW M2 Competition is no ordinary M2. What BMW did with this model is take the powerful engine of the M3 and install it into the agile and lightweight body of the M2. Essentially you get the best of both worlds with BMW’s best sports cars, combined into a car that offers excellent performance while still being a good daily driver too.
While this is one of the heaviest cars on our list at more than 3000 lbs, it is one of the most practical. With a reasonable amount of space in the back, you can enjoy road trips one weekend and track days the next. It also comes with a manual transmission, which is a must for some track goers.
What you now get on your M2 is the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 engine that puts out 405 horsepower. The M2 will also get you around 22 MPG, so it’s still reasonable when it comes to fuel usage. The price of all of this is around $58,000, which, when all things are considered, is a very reasonable price point.
- Fast and exciting driving experience
- Best M2 ever built
- Little comfort and luxury
- Tough competition in price range
7. Lotus Evora GT
Lotus have a long history of building track cars, and their Evora GT is no exception. They are well renowned for their excellent downforce and high grip levels due to its extremely lightweight body. The Evora GT features a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine that produces 416 horsepower. However, all of that power comes at a big price, and the Lotus Evora will cost you around $100,000.
Lotus have dipped their toes into several motorsport waters, with their F1 teams having plenty of success over the years, and with ventures into IndyCar and sports car racing as well. This means you really are buying into a true race car brand if you get a Lotus, and the massive power output combined with a top speed of 188mph makes this an incredible car for the track.
Away from the track the Lotus Evora GT could get you around at 20 MPG, which is not bad at all for what is essentially a car built to be thrown around a racetrack. The rear seat is optional, but not a great option with space being extremely limited on the back seat. So, this car really is more for the track, or for those less concerned with passengers!
- Extremely lightweight
- Very fast
- Built for the track
- Limited passenger space
8. Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
The monstrous Ford Mustang has always been a fan favorite, whether you like cars or not. For many years it has been the quintessential muscle car. You can’t deny that both classic and modern Mustangs are beautiful cars, and they are also extremely powerful. If you do not have good car control, it’s recommended to start off slow with these machines that’s for sure.
An Expensive Classic
The standard Mustang starts at around $26,000 and that goes up to the $70,000 mark. On top of the price tag, there are also very few options that come as standard on a Mustang. The flagship car (GT500) has a 760-horsepower turbocharged V8, the biggest engine featured on this list.
Unfortunately, its running costs will be just as costly as the price tag itself. It averages around just15 MPG, but if you only use it at the track and have a more fuel-efficient car to use daily, then it is definitely one to consider. The Mustang is a head turning car and it is definitely something a car lover should own.
- Fast and powerful
- Variety of high-performance packages
- High-quality build
- Expensive to buy and run
- Heavy fuel use
- Few options as standard
9. Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic has been an icon for sports car enthusiasts for many years now. It still remains one of the most popular cars to race with. It starts off at around $21,000 but if you want the Type R package you can expect to pay around double that price, but for the extra money you’re getting yourself a car capable of going 169mph.
It gets around 22 MPG, so it is reasonably fuel efficient for such a sporty car. But of course, that changes depending on the driving mode you are in and your own driving style too. For daily driving, the Type R does a good job of looking the part while still getting you from A to B without burning too big a whole in your wallet when it comes to fuel consumption.
The Type R features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine which produces 306 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful cars on our list. It was built for the track, with the option of a low-deck spoiler and slick alloys adding to the overall racecar look.
- Reasonable entry-level race car
- Fuel efficient
- Spacious interior
- Expensive packages
- Complicated infotainment
10. Subaru BRZ / Toyota GT86
Let’s be honest, these two are the exact same car. They both come with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine putting out 200 horsepower and they are nearly identical in all of their features and performance characteristics. They even look exactly the same! That is why we have put them both in our list at the same spot.
Cornering Is Key
These aren’t the fastest cars you will ever drive. In fact, in a straight line these two cars are actually quite slow compared to some of the others on this list. The impressive part about these cars though is their cornering ability. It’s almost as if they were built just to go around corners and ignore the straights altogether.
In terms of which one to choose between the two, it’s more about personal preference between the two brands. However, the Subaru has better fuel economy, and the Toyota has a lower entry level price, so they could be important factors to consider. Overall, you will not be struggling to get around the track in either of these cars.
- Excellent cornering ability
- Slow straight-line speed
- Limited interior space
- Stiff suspension (Subaru BRZ)
Summary Of The Cars
|Subaru BRZ||6.3||24||$28,000||200||143 mph|
|Toyota GT86||6.4||23||$27,000||200||140 mph|
|Honda Civic Type R||5.4||22||$21,000||306||169 mph|
|Ford Mustang Shelby GT500||3.3||15||$70,000||760||180 mph|
|Lotus Evora GT||3.8||20||$100,000||416||188 mph|
|BMW M2 Competition||4.2||22||$58,000||405||174 mph|
|Golf R||3.7||25||$40,000||288||153 mph|
|Mazda MX-5 Miata Club||5.7||25||$26,000||181||135 mph|
|Nissan GTR||2.9||18||$110,000||600||155 mph|
|KTM X-Bow||3.9||20||$88,000||237||144 mph|
|BAC Mono||2.8||20||$200,000||305||170 mph|
All of the cars on our list are road legal, but the main reason we have included these ones specifically is their behavior on the track. While your decision about which one you buy may be influenced by their price and how they perform on the road, it is the track where you will really be able to have fun with any of these cars.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.