Driven: Radical SR1
A debutante's taste of downforce aboard Radical's new 'back to basics' SR1 racer
“The aim with the SR1 Cup was to knock down all the barriers that hold people back from going racing,” explains former Evo contributor and now Radical marketing manager Roger Green. “The championship had to be very cost-effective, it had to remove all the hassle of gaining a licence and understanding how to race, and put drivers on the grid only with others of a similar experience level. Above all though, it had to deliver in terms of drivability and fun.”
Competitors are introduced to their cars through a pair of exclusive track days. There will be instructors on hand at both of these events along with the opportunity to practice standing starts. After these familiarity sessions the competition begins, firstly with a ‘How Fast’ time trial, then eight competitive races held at Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Oulton Park and Cadwell Park. Beyond the opening season, a separate class in the Radical Cup and the chance to make mechanical and aerodynamic upgrades ensure longevity for the cars and the drivers.
To provide an insight into what competing in the championship will be like, and an opportunity to drive the new car, Radical invited Pistonheads to Bedford Autodrome for one of MSV’s ‘How Fast’ events. During the day, we would compete for the fastest lap time against other journalists on the West Circuit.
It’s only when I look across to the SR8 parked in the garage that the extent of Radical’s de-tuning begins to reveal itself; no winglets or rear diffuser, smaller front splitter and wing, narrower body (it’s based on the old SR4) and treaded Dunlop road tyres designed to last the entire season.
Beneath the engine cover it’s a similar story with the 1,340cc Suzuki Hayabusa engine turning out 185hp. Although, with only 480kg minus driver to push round, it’s plenty quick enough and will hit 60mph in 3.6 seconds and 100mph in less than ten.
I’ve never driven a car with a sequential gearbox, or downforce, before so it comes as a great relief that for the first few laps I’ll be shoe-horned into the passenger seat alongside none-other than Le Mans winner, Andy Wallace. The cockpit, quite rightly, prioritises the driver, leaving me wedged against the bodywork and my head slapping against the rollover brace.
It’s Andy’s first time in an SR1 – although he’s driven plenty of other Radicals – but he quickly tunes into the controls, feeling for the grip levels and familiarising himself with the circuit layout with small, well-defined inputs that are lightning quick but never unsettling.
Equally well-placed are the pedals, with the clutch requiring a surprisingly light and progressive touch. In fact, all three possess a similar weight to their action and a purposeful lack of travel. The SR1 has a high idle but remains smooth and shudder-free at rest. There is none of the straining at the leash that I’d anticipated, and while the throttle is light and engine incredibly free-revving, pulling away is utterly benign.
So, How Fast?
The 20 minutes free practice is gone in an instant, at which point I can operate the controls with reasonable competence and just about know which way the circuit goes. But as far as putting a lap time together, well that’s a big step. And knowing that the SR1’s aerodynamic advantage will need to be explored in order to get a quick lap turns that big step into a giant leap of faith.
The results are soon in, and it’s a steady middle-of-road performance from me. My 1:23 putting me fifth out of 12, some three seconds off the pace of Track Driver’s John Mawdsley. So no champagne shower, but I do go home with a massive grin on my face and a deep jealousy for the 24 lucky individuals that will be racing in the SR1 Cup next year.
Engine: 1,340cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed sequential manual, rear-wheel drive
Torque (lb ft):130@7000rpm
0-62mph: 3.6 sec (0-60)
Top speed: 138mph
Price: £45,000 (Championship package inc VAT)
Danny's onboard video here: