Posted on October 28 2016
In a lot of ways, Radical is the little sports car company that could. In just 18 short years of existence, this upstart company from England has sold close to 2,000 cars spanning across five continents and has made a name for themselves on some of the biggest tracks – and with some of the most recognized drivers – in the world.
Obviously, Radical has stolen our hearts. But where did they come from? How did they do it? And what’s behind the success and heart of these cars?
It all started with the company’s co-founders, amateur drivers and engineers, Mick Hyde and Phil Abbott. Their idea was to build not “just another sportscar” but a car that was light, fast, and ridiculously fun to drive. Rather than focus on first on specs and mechanics, they zeroed in on the driver, and went from there. They wanted to ensure that the experience of driving a Radical was uniquely enjoyable and rewarding, and not just for professionals, but for enthusiasts as well. After all, if it isn’t fun to drive, what’s the point?
It was 1997, and Phil and Mick were intrigued by superbike technology. The took the power of a superbike engine and paired it with a bespoke powertrain system – the first company to ever do so – then combined it all into a lightweight package that was faster than a supercar. They also knew that focusing on the driver meant keeping the driver safe, which is why Radical has been a leader in safety innovation from the onset, taking the knowledge and experience from building carbon chassis for LeMans Prototype cars and applying it to their new upstart supercar.
Radical’s obsession with driver experience didn’t stop at building a great car. They wanted their driver’s to have the best racing experience as well. When they looked around at the kinds of races available for the community of drivers they were hoping to build, they weren’t totally satisfied. So, they started one, becoming the first manufacturer to provide club racers with long-format, doubleheader endurance racing events, with spares and support already included.
That first model in 1997 was the Clubsport, which, along with the races themselves, was an instant success. As the grids quickly filled up, Radical was soon able to launch the Prosport as well, which upped the power, widened the slicks and added wings to the Clubsport base. And while some startups might have rolled with that kind of success and been quite content, Radical was just getting warmed up.
In 2002, they introduced the SR3, a road-legal (in the UK) two-seater track car which could compete in international racing. The press were impressed, and drivers even more so, as the SR3 quickly became Radical’s most popular model (a title it still holds). The success of the SR3 lead to the release of the smaller, lighter SR4.
By 2005, Radical was finally ready to unleash the SR8 on the world. The SR8 carried a Powertec RPV8 engine with 380bhp, which has helped it achieve numerous lap records on tracks around the world, including the highly prestigious production car record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany. It’s most recent successor, the SR8 RX is a favorite of endurance racers across the globe.
Radical set out to expand its reach around the world in 2011 by further developing its street-legal offerings with the SR3 SL. The SR3 SL was equipped with a turbocharged Ford EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which brought it into markets like Switzerland, Germany and Japan.
And then there was the coupe. Taking everything they’d learned from years of developing cars like the SR8 and the SR3 SL along with the latest cutting edge technology, Radical was able to create the RXC, and in January 2014 they released the RXC Turbo. The largest and most advanced model yet, the RXC brings Radical into the GT sector, where they hope to have the same kind of impact they’ve had in the LMP world. Simultaneously, they’ve also released the SR1 Cup model as their most accessible car yet, which they hope will expand their reach even more to a new population of racers.
Over the years, Radical has impressed us thoroughly with their commitment to innovation, safety, and the driver experience. We love Radical for their races, which are some of the best competition around and for their designs which are setting industry standards. But most of all, we love driving them.