Is the Ginetta G56 GT4 the best homologated race car you've never heard of?

Staff
By Staff Writer
Apr 20, 2023 | Ginetta, GT4, Ginetta G56 GT4, G56 G4 | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Courtesy Ginetta USA

Story by Anthony Magagnoli

So, you’re looking at the myriad of factory-built race car options, but you’re not burdened by a lifelong affiliation to a particular marque, nor a small bank account. How do you choose between the American, English, German, Japanese, and Gerpanese options in this Balance of Performance world that we race in?

There’s one manufacturer that’s not trying to pull at your heartstrings for your favorite sports car because they don’t make sports cars. In fact, they don’t make road cars at all. Ginetta is a builder of dedicated race cars and is in the process of transplanting their well-established driver development ecosystem to the U.S. They invited me to drive their new G56 GT4, and it just might be the most successful internationally homologated race car that you’ve never heard of.

I arrived at Club Motorsports, in Tamworth, New Hampshire, on a brisk morning, greeted by two shining white Ginetta race cars. At a glance, they looked like twins.

Photography Credit: Courtesy Ginetta USA

However, one was the updated G56 GTA, while the other was the new-to-the-U.S. G56 GT4. I had previously reviewed the first G55 GTA to hit U.S. soil, and the G56 variant provided just a mild update to the front-end body work to improve on the rear-biased aero imbalance that I found in the G55. The G56 GT4, however, is a much larger departure from its G55 predecessor, despite its cosmetic similarities.

Let’s recap the GTA to start: The GTA is a tube-frame, fiberglass-bodied race car. The roll cage is an integral part of the frame, rather than an adaptation. A stock Ford 3.7-liter V6 lives between the driver and the front axle, attached to an electro-pneumatically paddle-shifted Quaife six-speed transmission, sending power back to a clutch-type limited-slip differential.

It’s supported by double wishbone suspension all-around with double-adjustable coil-overs. It rides on 245/35R20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, unassisted by any driver aids. The brakes are unboosted and the steering is hydraulic. It’s “simple” and extremely effective.

In my initial assessment, I determined that, even on street tires, it is a far superior track weapon to any street-based car that had similar money invested into it. That money comes to about $120k.

While there’s a G40 sub-model in the UK, the GTA is the entry-level car that we get here in the U.S. It may be the second rung on their ladder, but that ladder extends very high. All the way to LMP1, in fact, climbing past GT4, LMP2, and LMP2 on the way. Now let’s talk GT4.

The G55 GT4 was powered by a strung-out version of the Ford V6 found in the GTA. While it made just over 100 more horsepower than the GTA at 375 horsepower, it was still at a distinct disadvantage to the rest of the GT4 field in straight-line speed. It made up for its shortcomings in the brake zones and the corners, though, as it was the lightest car in the GT4 field by some margin, at only 2400 pounds.

While the GT4 was certainly fast, it was at a significant disadvantage in raceability. I distinctly remember seeing Dexter Racing qualify their car on pole at COTA, only to be quickly muscled down the order by other cars that could out-drag them, then keep them behind in the corners with a bit of defensive driving. The G56 aims to fix that.

Photography Credit: Anthony Magagnoli

At $235,000, the G56 GT4 is roughly double the cost of the GTA, but the similar looks belie what is a very different car underneath. The GT4 is powered by an LS-based 6.2-liter pushrod V8 with dry sump lubrication. The sequential gearbox is changed to an Xtrac transaxle out back, shifting a significant bit of weight rearward, with a Megaline electric paddle shift system. The clutch assembly in the LSD comes from their LMP3 car.

Photography Credit: Anthony Magagnoli

Suspension and brake setups also change, with billet uprights and upsized bearings coming from the LMP3 program. The pure race car stuff double a-arm suspension is controlled by two-way Ohlins dampers, adjustable for high-speed rebound and compression. There are no streetcar-based compromises made for the suspension geometry and camber can be reliably set with shim plates.

Photography Credit: Anthony Magagnoli

The brakes are upgraded to Alcon monoblock six-piston calipers, front and rear, equipped with Bosch M5 tunable race ABS and traction control.

Photography Credit: Anthony Magagnoli

So, how do they drive? The GTA was a great trainer to go out in first because the mistakes are more penalizing. It’s a proper momentum car where you have to carry speed to generate lap time. You can’t just stomp on the gas to recover from over-slowing.

Interestingly, the breakaway on the Michelin street tires was actually less progressive than the slicks and it didn’t recover from oversteer or understeer as quickly. That could have been partially due to the less compliant sidewall of the 20-inch tires, or possibly the relation of the suspension stiffness to tire grip.

Regardless, combined with the lack of ABS, it made me work up to the limits more gradually and deliberately. This enabled me to get up to speed more quickly in the GT4 car, with less likelihood of overshooting the limits.

Despite being nearly 10 seconds faster on a 1.5-minute track, the GT4 felt easier to drive. I think that the tire compliance was a significant factor, but everything is better in the GT4. Center of gravity, weight distribution, brakes, engine, and gearbox. The GT4’s 18-inch Michelin slicks are communicating through one of the best steering systems I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s a hydraulic rack and, combined with the rigidity of the chassis, you can drive the track as if you’re reading braille.

Photography Credit: Courtesy Ginetta USA

The Ginetta’s steering is not even in the same ballpark as the EPAS (electric) systems found on other street car-based OEM-built race cars. I’ve spent significant time in the BMWs and the electric steering is a bit of a hindrance in them, in my point of view. Even Porsche’s excellent GT4 Club Sport doesn’t communicate the fidelity that the Ginetta can. Nuances like the road falling away from the inside front tire, individual pulses of ABS, and a right front tire telling me that it needed a camber adjustment, were all transmitted directly into my mind in 4K clarity. This communication genuinely led to me getting up to speed more quickly and knowing exactly when I was at the limit of the tires at every phase of the corners.

The balance of the G56 GT4 hits a sweet spot for me. It’s more willing to change direction than a front-engine car, but doesn’t feel like it’s going to bite you if you get it a bit wrong like a mid or rear-engine car can. The lack of street car roots shows itself in the way the car responds directly to every input without filtering. The handling is predictable, with no unexpected tendencies, thanks to a suspension geometry that was designed from the get-go for the single purpose of working on a race track.

If you have been fortunate enough to experience race-tuned ABS, you know what a game-changer that is. The slip targets are aligned to those of a race tire, yet can be adjusted based on track conditions, from full wet to full dry, or off. It was especially appreciated at Club Motorsports, as the track is incredibly dynamic and has several corners that would lighten the inside tires on entry, which would easily lock the inside front. While I would get few enough pulses in the ABS that I could count them on one hand, I was still able to maintain brake pressure to the other wheels, carrying more speed into the corners.

While the car also has traction control, where it was set provided plenty of leeway where it would only intervene if I had a pretty significant drift going. While it didn’t allow me to mindlessly stomp on the gas at will, it did limit the amount of yaw and bring the rear end in line more quickly than if I’d been on my own. In general, though, I was controlling power-on oversteer myself, beneath the range where TC would kick in. In the wet, though, the TC would be hugely advantageous.

Aside from the driving-related benefits that come from a purpose-built tube frame race car, there are several other factors to consider. The repairability of steel tube and a fiberglass body is significantly easier and less expensive than that of a unibody car with steel, aluminum, or carbon body work. Servicing the vehicle’s critical bits is simplified, with easy access and visibility that was designed in from the beginning.

Photography Credit: Courtesy Ginetta USA

Regarding repairs and servicing, Ginetta has a permanent U.S. presence, based in South Boston, Virginia, near VIR. While I suspect that it will take several cars to start running in a series together to see manufacturer support at the races, they do promise local parts and technical support in the U.S. from this very moment.

Ginetta is trying to bring their driver development ladder program here to the U.S. With the introduction of the G56 GTA, they started a single make Ginetta Challenge series, giving drivers an entry point to racing with Ginetta. With 50 GT4’s planned to come in 2023, the next rung on the ladder is ready for action in any series that allows GT4 homologated cars. From there, Ginetta can take a driver all the way up to Le Mans, if they so desire.

Regarding homologation, it’s worth noting that the car I drove was not restricted to GT4 spec. It weighed in at 2400 pounds and was running its full 500 crank horsepower. To meet regulations, it will breathe through a 46mm restrictor, cutting it down to about 425 horsepower. It will also be saddled with about 220 pounds of ballast, which can be mounted to a tray that mounts to the passenger floor.

If that sounds like a lot of weight to carry, consider that Ginetta also used stainless steel floor panels to gain weight in the least penalizing place. The overall intent is to make the Ginetta race more similar to the heavier GT cars that populate the class. If Ginetta wanted to make an unrestricted version of the car, they could drop it under 2300 pounds.

It’s hard to not have a good time in cars like these, but I’d be remiss not to point out some trade-offs with the Ginetta. One was that the gearboxes are not as buttery smooth as the double-clutch units found in some OEM-based cars. They’re good, but the GT4 I was in had a slight lag with the three-four upshift that seemed like just a tuning issue that needed sorting. It was much better than the GTAs I’ve driven, though, which feel like they have a lot of lash in the driveline, which can spike the load to the tires and break them loose on throttle tip-in.

Photography Credit: Courtesy Ginetta USA

If you’re into the image of the car you drive (which, if we’re honest, we all are a bit), telling someone in a bar that you race a Ginetta might not immediately impress as much as something they recognize from the street.

However, it generates a lot more attention at the track and among those who know race cars. The fit and finish isn’t like an OEM car, either, but at the same time it’s perfectly acceptable and beautifully purposeful. The first time it gets banged up, you’ll be thankful that you don’t have an OEM unibody chassis and body work to fix.

If the purpose is to go fast and win championships, the Ginetta makes no compromises in pursuit of that goal. The fact that the Ginetta’s GT4 was the winningest GT4 car internationally should perk your eyebrows–or make you watch your rearview mirror–now that the G56 GT4 has hit American race tracks.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Ginetta, GT4, Ginetta G56 GT4 and G56 G4 articles.
Comments
QuikMcshifterson
QuikMcshifterson New Reader
4/20/23 12:24 p.m.

Oh man... ever since "driving" the GT4 Ginetta in Assetto Corsa Competizione I've lusted after one of these. Wish I had the scratch for a GTA version.

_fletch
_fletch
4/21/23 10:30 a.m.

Wow ive never driven a 375hp/2300lbs momentum car :)

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
4/21/23 10:44 a.m.

The G4 was a sweet package as was the original Lotus Elite.

Brotus7
Brotus7 Dork
4/21/23 10:48 a.m.

Neat fabricated sway bar!

Also, I appreciate the reaffirmation that real race cars rely on zip ties as much as all of mine have.

AnthonyM
AnthonyM New Reader
4/24/23 10:10 a.m.

For reference, here's a lap in the GTA:
https://youtu.be/ugdv59sXcmw

AnthonyM
AnthonyM New Reader
4/24/23 10:11 a.m.

And a lap in the GT4:
https://youtu.be/X-FHarb3ELM

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
bZCXwvhbf3gb3cSjoZ1Bb2kCFBUIjSEcYzy230nLu6kTSMRSbPWu8UUpjF4U4ude