You’ve come to a point in your life where you have some expendable income and more importantly, some spare time on your hands. You love motorsport, but the boat that carried the hopes of a future Supercar or F1 champion sailed well before you were ready to board and family, business, and well let’s face it - life - took you in a different direction.
That leads you to now - with a passion for the sport and a desire to be involved in something that really feeds that burning desire to race and to drive quickly, but where to go and what to buy..?
Reality is that later in life you don’t really want to endure the time and expense of building your own race car, nor spending months and months in the gym so you can compete against drivers half your age looking to impress on their way to that illustrious professional driving career - so where do you go?
It’s perhaps no surprise that one of the most enduring racing series in Australia caters for this very thing, with cars capable of circulating many of the country’s best circuits at speeds not too shy of a GT3-spec supercar, but at a fraction of the price. They also offer an opportunity for new drivers to enjoy one-on-one training from some of the best drivers in the country and at a pace where they can graduate from one series to another, and ultimately find themselves behind the wheel competing on some of the most iconic circuits in the world.
Welcome to Radical..
So what is Radical?
Think open-cockpit Le Mans prototype on a smaller scale, powered by a high-revving 260bhp, 1500cc 4-cylinder Suzuki Hyabusa-inspired powerplant that gives you a car capable of speeds in the vicinity of 250kph, all in a package that weights just 685kg with the driver.. The cockpit allows for two seats - which is invaluable for driver training and promotional rides - whilst the driver has access to a six-speed sequential gearbox complete with paddle shift. The aerodynamics of the car include a big rear wing, front diffuser, flat floor, rear diffuser and dive-planes (to help high speed cornering).
Bottom line is that this is a serious race car!
There are two beautiful aspects to a Radical SR3 (SR3 typifies the 1500cc-powered model, they also make a V8-powered Radical SR8 and a closed cockpit RSX that competes in GT competition around the world); one is that it is relatively straight forward to drive, and comfortable for an amateur driver to reach 90% performance very quickly. Secondly - and most importantly when selling the idea of your new found passion to family - it is incredibly safe. The car comes complete with a carbon-steel spaceframe chassis with integral safety cell. As a result, Radical have seen a number of big incidents with their cars in recent years, and in almost every incident, the driver has unstrapped themselves from the car and walked away completely unharmed.
Repairs too are relatively cost-effective given the fact that there are so many cars competing around the world. Being English, the car is well thought out, with many parts interchangeable - ie, suspension - parts match front-to-rear, brakes and tyres are the same etc etc.
Now let’s cut to the chase - cost..
Radical have been in Australia for more than ten years, and in that time more than 100 cars have been sold here. What that means is that there are cars available to suit a variety of budgets, from second-hand generation one cars, all the way up to the latest specification 2017 models straight from the factory in the UK ready to jump in and go..
For the budget minded, if you’re keen to save a dollar or two and wait, you could pick up an early generation car for somewhere below $60,000, however if you’re one of those people that likes to start new projects afresh and with brand new equipment, you could be looking at a shade over $150K for the 2017 SR3RSX.
Now depending on where and how often you compete, you can run the car for as little as $10,000 a season (fuel, tyres, fluids, basic maintenance) or if you want to compete regularly and at the top level, that budget would be closer to $25-30K per year.
Maintenance-wise the venerable Hyabusa engine is relatively bullet-proof and can run competitively with regular maintenance for more than two years before needing a rebuild (RA Motorsports supplied engines also come with an optional 40-hour warranty). The control-Dunlop tyre that is used internationally by the category provides a tyre built specifically for the car, and with careful management, can see you run a number of events before needing a new set - of course depending on how seriously you want to compete.
As for where to compete, that’s entirely up to you.
For starters, RA Motorsports - the importers of the mighty Radical in Australia - conduct regular drive days for new competitors as part of the Australian Racing Driver’s Club [ARDC] half-day track days that occur at RA Motorsports’ Sydney Motorsport Park [SMP] home every month. Drivers can circulate the circuit during the mid-week sessions and learn from the team’s raft of experienced driver coaches, drivers with experience in Le Mans and Supercars.
From there you can progress to the SuperSport Series, a category which competes between Sydney and Melbourne (predominantly SMP) predominantly across a single day in a sequence of short sprint races that allows drivers to compete against rivals in similar equipment (not just Radicals).
In Australia, the lead category for the mighty SR3 is Radical Australia Cup, a championship that has run for more than eight years. It allows competitors to join the CAMS Australian Motor Racing Championships (also known as the Shannons Nationals) to compete against other Radical SR3 drivers across races that often stretch to 50-minutes. These events often see two 50-minute races on circuits like Bathurst, Phillip Island, Sandown and Sydney Motorsport Park. In recent years the series finale has been at the iconic Highlands Motorsport Park circuit in New Zealand, making for an outstanding end to the season.
But if you’re still yearning for more, Europe beckons..
Each year the Radical Australia Cup champion is awarded a drive in the Radical European Masters and that has seen current Radical Australia Cup points leader and reigning champion Peter Paddon claim victory in the SR3 category, joined last year by Radical Australia coach and Le Mans star James Winslow.
For 2017 there are a string of Radical Australia Cup regulars lining up to compete on the hallowed turf at Monza in Italy, but even that is not the final step of the ladder for many of the past and present Radical competitors in Australia, with some of the drivers who have made their mark in the series going on to compete in prototype competition all over the world, in both LMP3 and LMP2.
The final word though must go to Greg Smith, a competitor who found motorsport later in life after a successful corporate career allowed him the funds and the time to compete. Along with fellow businessman Chris Medland, the pair formed RA Motorsports with the very intention of making the experience of competing and running a race car a lot more streamlined. The business now includes a club-house for competitors at Sydney Motorsport Park, administrative services to assist with licencing, entries and competition management as well as a full-time workshop to store, maintain and prepare cars led by a former F1 engineer who is based permanently with the Sydney-based operation..
“For Chris [Medland] and I we were a little frustrated when we started looking for opportunities to compete - there was really nowhere really to go as a one-stop shop that allowed us progress as budget and experience dictated,” Smith explained.
“We felt there was an opportunity to bring like-minded people into the sport and build an atmosphere that was both fun and competitive, and I guess you’d say we’ve succeeded in many regards as we’re now nine years down that path and have more than 100 Radicals in circulation competing around Australia.
“It’s like anything that you come into later in life, you want to find somewhere you can go that saves you time, and allows you to pursue your new found passion at a level that suits you, whilst having a real idea of what it’s going to cost you, and that’s what RA Motorsport is all about!”
For more information, please visit the Radical Australia website; www.radicalaustralia.com.au or www.ramotorsports.net
Keep in touch with the Radical Australia Cup via Facebook; www.facebook.com/radicalaustralia
And join in the conversation on Twitter;
For more information on Radical Australia or RA Motorsports, please contact Tahlia Neilson on 0428 625 888 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org