In this article I want to discuss the first five modifications you should do if you’re wanting to build a racecar. I don’t just mean a car that you want to make faster, I mean a car that will predominantly be for the track because it’s likely it won’t be road legal by the time you’re finished. I myself am currently planning a drift car build that is under major budget (and time) constraints, so that’s something I’ll be taking into account here, too.
So before I waffle on, let’s get right into it.
Don't Miss the Latest Episode from our Podcast
Tyres are the only part of the car that actually touched the ground, and therefore everything is transmitted through those four pieces of rubber. Every direction change, acceleration, and braking flows through these, so it’s a no brainer that these need to be top-notch.
Slicks give you the most grip obviously due to the fact that there’s more rubber touching the floor, but these aren’t road legal and are very expensive. So I’d begin with a good set of road tyres. Michelin Pilot Sports are great.
It must be said, however, that the more grip a tyre has, usually they’re more likely to let go faster as you build up to the grip limit. Be aware of this if you’re new to driving fast and maybe start on less grippy tyres if you’re worried about the car snapping out of control quickly.
This is where the road-legal bit comes in. If you can’t afford more power but want your car to be faster, then you just need to adjust the power to weight ratio. In this case, we’ll lower the weight. The good thing with lowering weight though is that it has an effect on not just acceleration, but braking, speed, and cornering, too.
Start by ripping out everything you can – carpet, back seats, interior trim, airbags. But if you really want to push the envelope and depending on your skill level, you could swap your glass windows for Lexan versions. You could make these yourself, or, for more money, buy made-to-measure versions. These will drastically lower your car’s weight and increase your performance.
If you’re going to remove airbags, check with your trusted mechanic what you need to do beforehand to do it safely. You’ll also need to check with your local road laws if this affects the legality of driving your car on the road.
On a budget, you won’t be wanting to upgrade all of your brakes. While this would be the best thing to do, a small change of pads will still help massively. The main thing you want to achieve with this change is heat dissipation, and pads specifically for racing will be much more up to the task than your stock road versions. Yellowstuff brake pads by EBC are perfect for this as they get up to temperature quickly but won’t fade as fast as normal pads.
What you don’t want to be doing is drilling your rotors yourself. This will lower the strength of rotors that weren’t supposed to be drilled and could be very dangerous. Ever been driving at 100mph towards a wall with no brakes? No? Let’s keep it that way!
You have no idea what a proper racing seat will do for your driving. On most cars from the factory, they’ll give you a comfortable seat with plenty of space to move around for when you get uncomfortable on a long journey. But racing is very different.
You don’t want to be bracing yourself with your legs and your arms, that gets very tiring and you’ll be spending a small amount of brainpower thinking about that. A good racing seat will keep you tightly strapped in at all times so you can focus on driving fast rather than keeping yourself in your seat.
These seats are also lighter, and are built with racing in mind so will keep you safer in racing conditions. Just make sure they’re fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing, and you have the right belts or harnesses to keep you safe.
The most important, and probably your least favourite part of this list: becoming a better driver. It’s so easy to whack on a turbo and remove five seconds from your lap time, but getting some lessons and really focussing on your own skills over your car’s performance will not only improve your driving in any car, but is way cheaper than most things on this list.
Just think about it. If you put Lewis Hamilton in your car, how fast do you think he could drive it? A few seconds faster a lap than you? Ten seconds faster? Well, that’s what you can work on before you do any other modifications. Just take a look at the video above where a very talented driver manages to take on a number of supercars in a Mazda Miata.