“This is bizarre, I mean properly bizarre! I’ve only had my licence a few months… now I’m competing against a guy who’s done Formula 2 and others that do British GT! I can’t really believe I’m here, but what an experience… Awesome!”
That was perhaps one of the more uplifting conversations I had as a guest judge on the inaugural Radical SR1 Cup Shootout earlier this week. And, in truth, I think it was one of the highlights of my entire season doing so.
I’ve been around a few motorsport contests, where one lucky winner can land a bursary towards a year of racing, or in some rarer cases, a fully funded season. Radical’s gone for the latter option – the winner of this contest gets a funded year of racing in the six-round, 12-race SR1 Cup, with their car being run by the works team. That’s worth upwards of £45,000.
That’s one heck of a prize. And the gravity of it was reflected in the entry.
Across my 10 years in motorsport journalism, I’ve collected a pretty comprehensive book of contacts. Before the contest started I knew of roughly half of the names on the entry – a handful of them personally. But what I really enjoyed about the process was the 50% I’d never encountered before.
Let’s remember one thing first, the SR1 Cup is designed as a club series, open – from next year – to more experienced drivers and novices alike. It’s not a professional-only career-focused series. You can certainly use it as a springboard, but the SR1 has always been intended as an ideal sports prototype entry point, using a car capable of pleasing drivers with any range of ability or experience.
Having taken part in the SR1 Cup myself at Snetterton earlier this year, I can tell you it’s a friendly and warm place to race, with a great bunch of guys behind it and one of the most thrilling cars I’ve ever had the privilege to drive.
It’s not the fastest thing on four wheels. If you want that, dig a bit deeper and get yourself an SR3, SR8 or RXC. Those will blow your socks off… But the SR1 has enough poke to satisfy most. But what the SR1 does better than any model Radical makes is open the door to proper, full-fat, sportscar racing for a much wider audience.
Of the 50 finalists, we had a real mix of experience, background, age and skill. Only one had ever raced a Radical before. And it led to a fascinating contest.
We had drivers with healthy budget, and those without who took a £500 chunk out of their savings to take a punt on winning what, for them, would be a dream drive. There were guys with international Formula 3 and FIA Formula 2 experience, GT racing campaigns and even LMP3 on their resumes. All of them vying for the same prize, albeit all for different reasons.
Some wanted it to use as a springboard to bigger things, some wanted to revive careers, some wanted it as a change of career direction. For some it perhaps represented the only way they’d be racing in 2018, and for others, just taking part in the process was an experience to be enjoyed.
That’s what was so exciting about this competition. The sheer unpredictability of it.
Radical wants an ambassador for the SR1, and its products in general. It’s not all about outright lap time and the biggest name in the field. As such candidates went through fitness, media, simulator and skid pan tests as well as getting 30 minutes to prove themselves at the wheel of one of the fleet of SR1s present, with data and coaching advice from professional engineers.
For an entry fee of £500 for a full day of activities, nobody could say they went home feeling short-changed.
The standard on offer was excellent. The novices acquitted themselves brilliantly, and there was a real hunger from everyone involved to be a part of this new-generation of Radical racing.
The change in Radical’s management has brought a breath of fresh air to the company. Every area of the business – from its cars and its grids, to its branding, service and new global strategy – now looks absolutely top notch.
The Shootout was a great example of its fresh thinking. The brainchild of Radical’s motorsport and engineering director Alex Mortimer and his team, it’s a fantastic initiative that I hope will become an annual fixture. As a former British GT champion, Mortimer knows what drivers want, and more importantly expect, from their suppliers. And this new-look Radical operation seems hell-bent on delivering the full package.
Radical has identified a niche for the SR1, and come up with a product that has enough appeal to draw an impressively wide spectrum of drivers to come and have a go. Nobody got out of the car without a smile on their face. And, based on that evidence, I reckon Radical could be on to a winner in more than one sense.
Keep checking back for news of the winner of the Radical SR1 Cup Shootout. All will be revealed soon.