May 6, 2014
2014 Radical SR3. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by James Bergeron
Racing is a funny sport. Once you start it tends to consume you – all of you. From your spare time to your cash, you’ll do anything to keep the adrenalin going, because without it you feel as though something is missing.
I wasn’t always into racing, but a sports car purchase and some prodding from friends to try out some local autocross days was all I needed to put that seed into my soul that has now grown into a fully blossomed affair – and I’m not complaining.
I happen to be in a unique situation with this gig where I test drive cars weekly, and as a result I found that my own sports car spent less and less time on the road. In fact, the only time I drove it was to a track or an autocross event. So over time it became apparent that I may as well save myself the insurance coverage (which was null on track anyways) and ensure that no matter what happened I could take my car home with me – so my car became a “trailer queen” so to speak. A few years of that and things started to become more and more serious and I knew I needed a car with a full cage and some real door-to-door racing action – cue the race car!
Well, my first race car purchase was a dud, but it allowed me to spend a little time to soul search and understand what I really wanted. You see, a street car converted for the track is always a compromise. Sure you can turn a street car into a very competitive racing machine but you are looking at spending tens of thousands of dollars taking a good car and stripping it bare and building it from the ground up. After all that time, work and money you are still left with a design that was never intended to be subjected to the pounding that a car can take on the track. Cue the realization that a dedicated vehicle built from the ground up as a race car was the only logical option for me and here we are.
What that decision meant was that I needed to be looking at formula cars. But you see I was spoiled with my first car, a 2001 Honda S2000, which was quick, handled splendidly and never failed me. Talking to some seasoned racers about cost, reliability and fun factor reduced my pool of contenders pretty quickly.
Arguably the most reliable formula car you can buy is a formula Mazda. The rotary engine is nearly indestructible, parts are plentiful and they are decently quick. The only concern for me was that I do instruct others from time-to-time, I still enjoy heading to the track with friends for some quick laps just for fun and a formula car is rarely allowed to run with sedans. That left me with sports racers; these are basically formula cars with fenders making it look more like a road car. Sports racers are typically allowed to run with sedans, leaving more track day options open as well as being able to compete in Formula Libre race series events.
2014 Radical SR3. Click image to enlarge
After a few months of research of various models it became obvious to me that the most reliable and quick choice was a Radical SR3, a purpose-built sports racer built by a small company in the United Kingdom. The Radical is a two-seater, is ultra quick and from all accounts of owners past and present, and decently reliable with reasonable running costs. Bonus points go to the Radical for being a two seater, allowing for others to enjoy the car as a passenger with me.
The SR3 is no slouch on track either with a 0–100 km/h time of 3.1 seconds and 80–160 in just 5.3 seconds. More importantly, the Radical SR3 is capable of braking at 2.0 gs and provide true down force with cornering potential of up to 2.5 gs – this is a true racer with no compromise. Because of its light weight (570 kg), consumables such as brakes and tires actually last much longer than those of comparable and much slower road cars. In terms of lap times, the Radical SR3 is capable of turning lap times similar to those of a Porsche Spec-racing Cup car, which is well beyond any kind of budget of the average Joe like myself.