The Ginetta G40 R is not your average sports car, and, I think it’s fair to say, carries more than the weight of a hopeful profit margin on its shoulders. Indeed, the future of Ginetta as a road car manufacturer may indeed hinge on the success of both the G40 and the G60 as road cars, both soon to be released and as seen here, and in near production ready form.

Ginetta, unlike rivals such as Lotus, Ariel or Caterham, have not produced a road car since the 1990’s, hence the importance of two new road based offerings, spurred on by current owner Laurence Tomlinson of LNT Automotive . Indeed, the success of the little G40 R, and its sibling, the G60 911-rival, could make-or-break the West-Yorkshire based sports car manufacturer.

Should it fail, Ginetta may end up next to TVR in the automotive cemetery with ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ written across its headstone. But for now, there’s everything to play for.

Certainly, with Laurence Tomlinson at the helm, they have an asset highly regarded in the industry, and a man who strikes me as a modern day Colin Chapman. With years of racing experience, Le Mans wins and a keen understanding of both business and engineering, Tomlinson and Ginetta have every chance of making it work, even in such a competitive market.

At Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire we drove the ‘baby’ G40 R, which features lightweight engineering, a Mazda sourced engine and gearbox, a front engine rear-wheel drive layout and very little in terms of driver aids. A pretty car, low slung and dainty in its proportions, whilst still looking muscular, this car looks every inch the race car turned road car that it is.

Ginetta G40 RThe 2.0-litre Ginetta G40 R at Silverstone circuit.

Interestingly, this is what sets it apart from its rivals, in that the G40 is a race car adapted for the road by putting in a proper manual gearbox (the race car itself uses a sequential ‘box), road biased seats and seat belts, some headlights and a number plate. If you are looking for a racing experience on the road, it’s difficult to think of anything else that blurs the lines more strongly than the G40.

With a 175 bhp 2.0-litre MZR engine propelling a kerb weight of just 795 kg, the performance of the G40 sits somewhere between a Lotus Elise and an Exige, with the 0-60 sprint taking 6 seconds and with a top speed approaching 140 mph. If you are bridging the gap between the Elise and Exige, the numbers make sense and it feels suitably quicker than an Elise S in a straight line.

On the track

Out on track, the car feels lively, and will make you work to get the best out of it. Its unassisted, slightly un-communicative steering at low speeds comes alive and offers useful feedback as you begin to make more flowing progress. Without brake servos, the rock solid brake pedal takes some getting used to, and it can be very easy to lock the rear wheels and end up provoking ‘polite pirouetting’ if you are not used to this kind of race-derived braking. Properly managed however, the brakes offer excellent retardation and resist fade out on the circuit.

The G40 R’s handling balance is good, but the chassis is less forgiving than a Caterham Seven or Lotus Elise in terms of gradual breakaway of grip. Turn-in oversteer can be difficult to correct if you are not quick enough or in tune enough with the G40’s un-assisted steering, however once your brain catches up, you realise truly rapid progress can be made on track, using the excellent grip and precision provided by the combination of its soft-compound road tires and a well balanced chassis.

Should you consider buying one?

With the ex-Farbio based G60 sports car was being rolled away (with a minor electrical malfunction that prevented us from getting behind the wheel), responsibility fell on the G40 R to impress and prove that Ginetta has what it takes to produce as good a road car as it already does with racing cars.

Ginetta G60, the £68,000 911-rival based on the Farbio GTS.Ginetta G60, the £68,000 911-rival based on the Farbio GTS. Ginetta acquired Farbio in March 2010 with its founder, Chris Marsh, continuing the sportscar’s development under the Ginetta name.

Whilst we feel that improvements could be made to the interior trim quality and some of the exterior paneling, the car we drove was a pre-production model and we’ve been promised these will be sorted before customer deliveries commence.

If that’s the case, then Ginetta have produced a balanced, race-honed road and track car that, although only produced in small numbers, we expect to give established cars from Lotus and Caterham a run for their money. In fact, we’d go so far in saying if you’re looking for a fixed roof sportscar ably suited to the inclement weather here in the UK, then the G40 R has few rivals.

Certainly, the driver appeal is there, and if Ginetta continue to dial in their race derived understanding of dynamics into all future road cars, we expect Ginetta to become a serious contender as a producer of lightweight track cars for the road.

The G40 R will cost just £29,950 when deliveries commence in 2012, which makes it something of a bargain compared to the £68,000 G60 sportscar. The company has set itself the modest target of 100 cars, all of which will be supplied to UK customers.