Event: Ginetta Factory Tour
I am now the feature writer for supercardriver.com . This report can be viewed in a magazine format, by clicking here.
Ginetta was originally formed in 1958 by the Walklett brothers, primarily as a racing company. The company ran into trouble in the late 80’s and ultimately was acquired by businessman Lawrence Tomlinson in 2005. Since then company has gone from strength to strength, winning several racing events, the highlight being the GT2 class at Le Mans. Ginetta are also in the Guinness Book of Records for being the only car to drive across the channel tunnel. Supercardriver arranged a factory tour and the turnout was a resounding success.
Today’s special car-park head turners included a Lamborghini Murcielago in brightest of bright blue and, new to our camp, a Dodge Viper – still looking as wild and bonkers as ever a car could do. My good lady is with me for the first time on these events and is busying herself on camera duty. I give special mention to the Ferrari 360 in front of us, hoping to gain some kind of purchase agreement. She prefers the 911 in the corner (GT3RS). “I like the blue wheels”, and peering inside “Oooh, it’s got blue seatbelts too!” Ah. The gleaming white Z4M Coupe also gets a special mention so I give up on my mission as a task for another day and press on with car park navigation and photos.
We are soon greeted by Mike Simpson who will be our main host for the tour. Mike is the sales manager at Ginetta as well as a racing driver and has huge breadth of knowledge. As we enter the impressive boardroom through a set of double-doors the first thing that strikes you is the not-inconsiderable boardroom table with seating for 20 people. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the feature wall holding the many trophies that have been won over the years by the Marque.
The adjacent wall overlooks the factory below with large windows for us to peer through which we all dutifully do, with just a smidge of concealed excitement. We are then informed by our hosts that Supercardriver has “provided the biggest turnout ever to the factory tour – and by far the most impressive display in the car park”. Mike then proceeds to tell us the Ginetta story of followed by a short video highlighting the notable history and Ginetta’s heritage.
Introduction over, a brief Q&A follows and we are then taken to the offices where the CAD (computer aided design) work takes place. From here, the technology can be used to establish impact of changes and build new designs. These assessments can prove crucial when viewing the likely impact of body/chassis changes before moving them to production – thus potentially saving a lot of money in the event of an unforeseen design problem. This was fascinating to see and our group asked several questions.
On display around the building are several cars that have recently been built. A red G20 is waiting collection from a 14-year-old youngster who will be taking part in next years Ginetta Junior racing series. These competitions are designed for those who are too young to race in more senior competitions, whilst still giving them a taste of the full-blown racing action.
Next we are led into the workshop where our hosts describe each of the engineering bays and the production processes in areas such as engine and roll cage development/creation. Leading through the factory, we are shown Ginetta’s road ready electric sports car. After an 8-hour charge, the batteries will run the car for 250 miles before needing another pump of home-brew juice. The car is taxed, road legal and a fully working example of what could be achieved using alternative power. Our host commented that it feels very much the same to drive as a normal car, just with an eerie silence when stationary. The dashboard is cluttered with many buttons and switches, revealing its prototype status. The post-it note on the dashboard amuses; “if you don’t recognise it, don’t touch it!”
Around the workshop, many racing cars are in different stages of undress, being rebuilt or prepared for their next outing. In a corner of the workshop floor are a number of special cars including iconic Ginetta and TVR cars that Lawrence and the racing team took to racing victory, as well as some classics and rarities from his personal collection. Towering over the cars, amidst the racing support-lorries and buses, is a real surprise and delight – a magnificent black and orange helicopter!
Ginetta recently acquired Farbio and with it the GTS model. Now re-branded as the F400 and modified to improve on this already impressive production road car. With a carbon fibre body it continues to be built at the specialist factory in Bath, whilst these premises in Leeds focus on the racing breed. Still, there is an F400 production car taking centre stage for us to drool over. Used as the demonstration vehicle, the car undoubtedly has had a tough life but to look at you wouldn’t know it – as striking as ever with the classic bold lines of a modern small supercar, slightly McLaren-esque one might say.
Sitting in the car, low and rigidly straight forward you are immediately reminded of its purpose; leather sports seats and a minimalist look to the cabin, a large screen display on the centre console acting as your only company. Once in the driving seat – not a delicate maneuver it has to be said – it’s a comfortable place to be and it feels like a real racecar, legs stretched out forward in the low-slung seat, hands gripping the small steering wheel.
Leading us out after the tour comes to a close, we pass through the staff Gymnasium, lavished with all the latest fitness apparatus. It gives further impression that employees of Ginetta are well looked after and those who we had the opportunity to speak to were certainly hugely enthusiastic about the company. The factory tour was a great way to spend a Monday evening. A huge thanks goes to Mike and the staff at Ginetta who stayed back especially to allow us the pleasure of an insight to this fascinating world of racecar production. We wish them every success for the future.
Their only request of us was a donation to their chosen charity – The Teenage Cancer Trust. With donations from all our drivers we raised a fantastic £640.