Friday 17th September 2010

Driven: Radical SR3 In Central London

Extreme track car plus the nation's capital equals a lot of attention

Lady Godiva in her famous birthday suit can't have got more attention than this. I'm crawling around Parliament Square and off towards the Embankment in mid-afternoon London traffic in a Radical SR3 track car, and the way people are staring you'd think I was standing naked on the bonnet waving my unmentionables (I'm not).

Mind you, threading its way between the city's red buses and black cabs, with its open cockpit and spoilers all over the place, the Radical does stand out rather; it looks for all the world as if it has taken a wrong turn at the Silverstone 1000km LMS race and somehow ended up in London.

The question that will no doubt be hovering at the tip of your tongue at this point, of course, will be: why? Apart from the obvious and slightly flippant 'because we can', it's largely because the car's owners, Dave Tilly and partner Liz Kerrigan, got in touch with PH to say they'd bought a new toy for their track day company.

They told us that it was one of only two Radical SR3 RSs registered for the road in this country and asked if we would like to drive it - so there was only one place to go. And Brands Hatch would have been far too obvious.

Radical has sold more than 1000 cars since it was set up in 1996 and, of those, a significant number (more than 600) have been SR3s. But apart from a red car that once belonged to one C. McRae, and Dave Tilly's brand-new pride and Joy, we're aware of none that have been registered for the road.

On first acquaintance with the car you can see why. The ride seems to skim the ground, access is via an awkward clamber over the side sills and, once you're belted in, over-the-shoulder visibility is something you dream of.

The drivetrain, at urban speeds, is also something that is most charitably described as truculent. The clutch is improbably vicious, the throttle is hyper-sensitive, and the six-speed sequential paddle shift requires constant attention if you're not to stall.

I'm quite glad that Dave, who plans to hire the car out for track days, has installed dual controls. For him it's a simple survival technique - this is one of the UK's fastest tack cars and he needs to be able to control the over-exuberance of customers - but in this instance he uses them from the passenger seat to help me keep the car moving in the urban crawl.

Mind you, once you adjust to its sensitivities, the car is actually quite manageable - and it would evidently be magical on the track. We only get a few chances to open up the sizzling 210bhp, 130lb ft, 1340cc motor - which revs to 10,500rpm - but it's clear that performance must be electrifying. That, in combination with the inevitably massive grip from all that downforce, must make the radical a deeply exciting on-track experience.

I know it's a bit of a silly thing to do to take a car like this into a busy city, but the fact that it can cope with it is pretty incredible - and our gawping spectators as we pass through Parliament square are a perfect reminder of just how special cars like this are. I still think that we'll take it to a race track next time, though...

If you want to have a go in Dave's Radical in more appropriate circumstances than we did, get in touch with him

Pics: George F Williams



Author: Riggers

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71 comments on this story

Last comment was by Adam205
on 20th September 2010