In a previous blog, we discussed the vast differences between a Radical SR3 and something like a Miata; noting hidden similarities in balance. There was also some discussion about how it compared to a Noble M12, which is high on power but lacks the aerodynamic benefits of a Radical. This time around, we'll change gears (with a pneumatic paddle shifter, of course) and consider how the Radical fits the needs of todays driver next to the Stohr and Ligier, ending with a quick synopsis of the Radical lineup.
So, lets get something clear up front: When you start talking about sports racers like the Radical or Stohr, you are already in a land of magical wonder, with unimaginable performance of all manner; these cars harness something powerful, an ability that often defies description. They are all in a class their own...
Right then! Prior to the creation of XNR, I knew I wanted to get into sports racers, but was undecided on brand, if any. As I looked around, I had some conversation with an old friend, Jake Latham, who had run pro-level races in the likes of Radicals and Stohrs in the past, and has owned lap records at our home track, High Plains, in his Stohr. The Stohr is very lightweight and is used specifically in DSR and Formula 1000 racing, primarily with SCCA. Stohr produces awesome, sexy cars, but the conversations with Jake set me on a path towards Radical. Id like to share some salient points from those conversations:
1. Safety: A Stohr is significantly lighter and less robust than a Radical. Due to the audience Stohr caters to, it doesn't suit driving on track with street cars. A collision while driving a Stohr could be a life-ending event. In the Radical, people have been in head-on collisions and walked away uninjured. A Stohr should be *exclusively* for racing other cars like Stohr, of which there are very few in the Rocky Mountains. No open lapping, no mixed-class events...Radical doesn't share that impediment.
2. Usage: Where a Radical SR3, SR8, and RXC use an RPE Gear Drive Unit (GDU) as a final drive, Stohrs are chain-driven. Chains might seem low-maintenance items, but they can be finicky and are generally used for 45-minute sprints. A Radical, on the other hand, is a perfect car for use in both Sprints AND endurance races. There is a great deal of advantage to being able to run endurance races: Overall seat time, reduced cost per hour of seat time, and an option to rent seats out and still take part in racing. Endurance races are also an absolute blast! The decision seemed clear.
I'd like to take a step back and clarify that Im NOT knocking Stohr. Im a car enthusiast who respects and likes Stohr; and lots of other brands. They are very, very capable cars--in fact, we may list Jake's Stohr for sale in the near future--because its totally awesome. The Stohr fits a very narrow band of needs, and its all a matter how many boxes a particular product checks for a particular person. And part of the point of this comparison is that Radicals checked more boxes for me, and its MY blog! =)
So what about the Ligier? Well...Ligiers *seem* like pretty incredible cars with solid performance, some of which are just crazy expensive. Notice how I said, "Ligiers *seem* like incredible cars"? Have you ever seen a Ligier in person? Yea, me either. Have you even heard of Ligier?? Do you know how its pronounced? They are ultra rare and thats a big problem when were talking about race cars! Who do you race against? Where do you get parts? What about service and support? Does support even exist? If it does, you had better hope your French is up to par! The point here is: Rare race cars are neat until you start using them; then its just a nightmare. Moreover, they may run into similar issues as the Stohr if you wish to drive on track with street cars or in mixed-class races.
Today, Radical is the largest manufacturer of sports racers in the world--parts are easy to procure and reasonably priced, while support is a simple email or phone call away. They are the only sports racer that manufactures 2-seat models, and one of the few cars that can run on-track with street cars in a safe manner. Its also the only sports racer manufacturer that produces a car able to compete with the likes of Formula 3, at a fraction of the cost (both buying the car and maintaining it). Radical has an intriguing implementation that works, and it works so well that Radical continues to gain headway and popularity despite some drop-off of some other sports racers. Radical also has a lineup of cars that promote rookie learning, with a full progression into some of the most outstanding racers in the world. With short quotes from the UK Radical website, below is the lineup. XNR can get into any of these cars, new or used, based on your interests:
Radical SR1: "...the first step on the Radical ladder, ideal for enthusiasts looking to take their circuit driving to the next level with a focused sports-racing car that has an excellent safety record."
Radical SR3: "...the next step up from the SR1 offering thrilling, cost-effective, high-performance track driving and racing...the most widely produced and most successful prototype style sports racer in the world...This bears testament to its proven track record and stunning value versus performance."
Radical SR8: "...a truly exhilarating drive, powered by a bespoke Radical V8 engine with physics-defying grip, relentless acceleration and powerful brakes...adds up to a car that can lap Silverstone GP in sub 2 minutes. It nears LMP2 performance and was used by Michael Vergers to set the current production car lap record around the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife."
Radical RXC: "...Radical's flagship racing car for the gentleman driver. It offers a refined experience closer to LMP than ever before thanks to Radical's learnings from their multiple Le Mans entries in LMP2--at a purchase and running cost far below the competition"
Naturally, were biased here at XNR. But we feel that Radical offers such a unique and profound offering in the world of sports racers, and checks all the boxes that people are generally looking for in a sports racer. Its a wonderful future were living in. Take advantage of it!
On August 12-13, I took a quick trip down to Houston to meet Ian and Simon Dawson of Radical Texas and show support for the opening of the new race shop onsite at their home track, MSR Houston. It was a blur of great people having great conversation, sharing great food, and lots of laps around the track.
MSR Houston is a 2.4-mile track with 17 turns in total. Facilities are complete with garages, buildings, driving schools, and race teams onsite, such as Radical Texas. It also boasts a very nice Karting course. I found MSR to be a very interesting track for a couple of reasons:
1. MSR can be configured to run both clockwise and counter-clockwise. On many tracks, this is not possible due to lack of design features (for example, a hot pit and entry/exit that are compatible for both directions), but also due to safety--Either various features of the track do not bode well in certain directions, or safety features on the track (locations of walls and tires barriers, run-off areas, etc) are designed for use given a very specific vector of travel. Because MSR can run both directions, it's effectively 2 tracks, providing a variety of exciting and unique configurations.
2. MSR is very technical. At 17 turns and 2.4 miles, MSR has 2 more turns than High Plains (the XNR home track), while also being about 900 feet shorter per lap. What this means is that MSR has shorter straights and some tight turns that require a lot from a driver--one can spend many years mastering a track like this. With that said, there is a lack of elevation change at MSR--But we're a bit spoiled with that aspect out in Colorado.
While the Grand Opening catered primarily to the Texas customer base, I did get an opportunity to ride in a brand spakin' new SR8 with Alex, one of Radical's professional drivers from the UK. I was incredibly impressed by both the skill that Alex displayed on track, and the nearly transcendental performance of the new SR8. This, ladies and gentleman, is what your imagination generates when you think about racing in a Formula car. This is plain and simply, exactly what we had in mind when we thought of the name, XNR. While there are currently no XNR customers driving the SR8, were going to try to change that--new goal: Get more SR8's driving out here in Denver!
With the visceral enjoyment of the SR8 in the rear-view mirror, I spent some time building my business relationship with Radical Texas and customers in the shop, gathering some parts for XNR customers back in Denver, and documenting the Radical Texas setup--Simon and Ian contain a really vast amount of knowledge about racing and Radicals--Ian has raced LeMans, if I recall, 20 times. And he is still alive! So, I paid careful attention to how the shop was set up, how they got to where they are, and where they are headed. I spoke with their Crew Chief Darren and spent time with some of the Radical executives that were out from the UK.
Id like to share a few pics of that media documentation while I was down there. In addition to the below pics, you can see several real-time live Facebook videos that are on the XNR Facebook page here:
Below: Row 1, left to right: Radical SR8 set up with iRacing as a simulator, 2017 Radical RXC Spyder on display, one row of cars in the shop. Row 2, left to right: Another row of the shop, the SR9 LMP2 car, and the Radical race shop from outside. Row 3: View of the track from 2nd floor near Radical's race shop.
Lastly, to close this blog out, I captured a few quick videos that have not been uploaded elsewhere yet; they are view-able below.
Visiting Radical Texas was fantastic;it provided an opportunity to create some new business relationships, meet some amazing people, and raise awareness of Radical around the US. We wish Radical Texas the best with their new shop and look forward to seeing them, hopefully at some point in Colorado!
Video 1: Radicals depart the shop to get a session in on track
Video 2: Two Radicals pass the front straight at MSR
Video 3: A few bikes run the track following Radical sessions