Five performance cars that are much more fun to drive around a race track

There's only so much fun you can have in a fast car on a public road – unless you're happy to risk your licence.

Which is why race tracks are increasingly catering to those who want to explore the limits of their performance car in a controlled environment.

But not all cars cope well with a good ol' thrashing. Brakes can give up and tyres can wear unevenly due to the punishment.

But there are some that are tailor made for some spirited laps around a track.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

The GT3 is as raw and focused as a Porsche gets, taking the loveable DNA of a 911 and infusing it with a healthy dose of race track energy and pace.

Like all 911s the engine hangs behind the rear wheels, each shod in broad 325mm-wide Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres.

The wings and vents aren't just for looks, either, instead employed for high speed stability and cooling of everything from the brakes to the phenomenal 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine.

That engines provides some of the crispest throttle response of any car and it shrieks all the way 9000rpm, producing a magical 383kW along the way.

Get in on the action

But unlike garden variety 911s – which can be surprisingly sophisticated – the GT3 is for people who like getting in on the action, relishing in the sublime steering and potent brakes of one of the best driving sports cars on the planet. Those who love hearing every firing of a cylinder, every clunk in a gearbox and every ping of a pebble into the wheel arch.

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Just hope it doesn't rain - the track-focused tyres are a bit useless on a wet road.

Jaguar XE SVR Project 8

If exclusivity is your thing then look no further than the Project 8, the track-ready hero of the Jaguar SE lineup.

Tickled by the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, the SV Project 8 takes the basic shape of a thoroughly sensible XE and ditches most of the sensible bits.

If you splash out the full $349,000 that means there are no rear seats, but you do get a roll cage. Plus there are racing seatbelts and a wing that looks better suited to Mount Panorama than the peak hour crawl.

Throw in metallic orange paintwork and there's something intimidating about the Project 8. But that all melts away once you get it moving, at which point everything makes sense.

Left behind

It points beautifully into a corner and seriously ups the grip levels from a standard Jaguar.

The supercharged V8 also has enough mumbo to accentuate a rear-end slide, but in a controlled and forgiving way. There's an eight-speed automatic but it's been tuned for sharp, jolting upshifts, all in the name of performance.

There's one glaring issue with the Project 8: all 300 examples for the world were produced with the steering wheel on the left. So, when your friend in his 911 GT3 exits the track to drive home, you'll still be loading the car onto a truck to tow it back.?

BMW M2 Competition

The M2 has long been the dark horse in the BMW M stables, in some ways stepping in for the earlier M3s in terms of space, affordability and enjoyability.

It helps that the M2 is relatively light, at less than 1.6 tonnes. And that it has a full 302kW to play with, the fun starting way down in the rev range and spinning seamlessly to 7000rpm.

These days it's the Competition version that is the only M2 on offer, priced from $99,900 for the Pure (san electric seats and flash sound system, among other gizmoids) or another $5K if you want more of the luxury included.

There's even a manual (with a beautiful gearshift) that is marginally slower (4.4 seconds to 100km/h versus 4.2 with the auto) but no less fun – and in some ways more engaging.

If you can't stretch to the M2 then the M240i makes a terrific backup, bringing a lesser powered version of the same engine and narrower body that still exudes lashings of rear-drive character.

Hyundai i30 N

OK, stick with us here… While the Volkswagen Golf GTI is arguably a better daily driver, Hyundai's first crack at a hot hatch returns fire by being so well suited to a race track thrash.

Blame it on the bloke behind the project: Albert Biermann. As the former head of BMW's M division he's a man who sets the performance bar high, even if the price tag kicks off at $40,490.

A fiery 202kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo ensures snappy acceleration, something that'll easily rush you beyond 200km/h on a straight.

A shift in thinking

Just make sure you know how to change gears; it's manual-only for now, with an auto due in 2020.

Hyundai's great five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage all but encourages owners to head for a circuit, maintaining the original coverage for all but competitive events.

No excuses then…

Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ

These twins under the skin have been around since 2012 but they still make for supremely fun track cars.

There's not much power (just 152kW) from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder and the tyres aren't overloaded with grip. All of which works beautifully once you get it on a race track.

The tyres slip and slide, returning the focus to driver skill. And you don't have to be risking your life to enjoy the thrills of a rear-end slide, tyre smoke and all.

With a traditional rear-drive layout it makes for a terrific track toy and one that doesn't mind being driven hard lap after lap.