“It’s from Leeds. I know it’s the wrong side of the Pennines – I am from Lancashire – but I had so much fun. Nearly tears. I doubted myself all the time I sat in that car and I absolutely loved it.”
It can’t be easy for a cricketer to put county loyalty aside, but Freddie Flintoff made an exception for the G56 GTA. At the end of 2021, the former England captain and current Top Gear presenter named the Yorkshire-built Ginetta his car of the year.
With the likes of Lotus and Morgan now in foreign ownership, Ginetta is one of the few truly British car brands left. Founded in 1958, the company was bought by Le Mans class winner and entrepreneur Lawrence Tomlinson in 2005. Today, it assembles around 90 racing cars a year, with nearly half of production exported to the USA.
Climbing the ladder
Ginetta’s USP is a ‘racing ladder’ that allows drivers with enough talent (and sufficiently deep pockets) to reach the highest levels of motorsport. Notable alumni include Lando Norris – now driving for McLaren in Formula One – and W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.
Charlie Robertson, my coach for today, is another Ginetta success story. He won the Ginetta Junior Championship (for drivers aged 14-17) in 2012, followed by the GT4 Supercup in 2014. A year later, he finished first in the European Le Mans Series, racing alongside Sir Chris Hoy.
I’ve never driven a ‘proper’ racing car before, so my ambitions are more modest; simply handing back the G56 GTA in one piece would suffice. I pull on a balaclava and helmet, then fold myself through the robust rollcage. A five-point harness locks me into the deep bucket seat, behind a butterfly-shaped steering ‘wheel’ that resembles a PlayStation controller.
A Motec digital display records everything from throttle inputs to overall lap times. There are no electronic driver aids – and no excuses.
Grip versus slip
Prime the ignition and the Ford-sourced 270hp V6 ignites with a baritone bark. You only need the clutch pedal to pull away – after that, the Quaife paddle-shift sequential gearbox does the job for you. It even auto-blips on downshifts, so you can hone your left-foot braking technique.
At Ginetta’s home circuit of Blyton Park, the G56 feels intimidating at first. Its steering is hyperactively alert and its non-servoed brakes require a hefty shove.
The road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres also seem eager to slide – as I discover on only my third lap. Flooring the throttle too early in a second-gear corner, I send us pirouetting onto the grass.
Fast and full-on
Thankfully, Charlie is unfazed and his tuition quickly helps me build speed and confidence. Soon I’m trail-braking into bends, cutting across kerbs and enjoying the odd twitch of oversteer. The whole experience feels fantastically full-on, with brutal gearshifts, gut-wrenching grip (once the tyres are warmed up) and a deafening blare from the twin tailpipes.
By the end of our second session, I was lapping Blyton Park around five seconds slower than a pro driver like Charlie. That’s a lifetime in racing terms, of course, but it still feels like a good result. I clamber out feeling exhausted but elated, and already itching for another go.
Buy a G56 GTA and you can join the GT Academy programme. This includes entry into a five-round, single-make championship that supports British GT and BTCC events. Ginetta even offers a ‘turn up and drive’ service, transporting your car to circuits and preparing it for each race.
An all-in cost of around £100,000 isn’t cheap, but the Ginetta is still a relatively affordable way to go racing. It also undercuts track-focused supercars such as the Porsche 911 GT3 or Lamborghini Huracan STO – while offering up more raw excitement than any of them. Or indeed, any game of cricket ever. Sorry Freddie.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
ENGINE: 3.7-litre Ford V6
TOP SPEED: 140mph