Posted on September 05 2016
The 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans, France is both the oldest active sports car endurance race in the world, and widely considered the greatest. It is an event loaded with honor, prestige and history. Every lap is 8.5 miles long, and as the name of the race suggests, it is run for a full 24-hour period. For both car and driver, even completing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an accomplishment.
For a sports car manufacturer, competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the greatest aspirations you could hope for.
So, when Radical rolled out the SR9 in 2006 to compete in the LMP2 class at 24 Hours of Le Mans, this was no small accomplishment. The SR9 project was led by Peter Elleray, who was chief engineer and aerodynamicst. Elleray had previously designed for Bentley, and was responsible for the Bentley EXP that won Le Mans in 2003.
Elleray worked with Steve Prentice Design to build the first SR9 for Rollcentre Racing. It was equipped with a Judd 3.4 liter V8 engine, though the bulkhead had been designed to also house an AER 2.0 liter turbo.
The SR9 went from sketches to skid-marks in less than a year, and was remarkably already ready for prime time. Not only did it complete its very first 24 Hours of Le Mans race, it came a hair shy of placing on the podium as the race came down to its final hours. Driven by Martin Short, Joao Barbosa and Stuart Moseley, Rollcentre’s SR9 was in 2nd place in the P2 class and 7th overall by the time six hours had gone by. During the night, however, there was a problem repairing a leaking cylinder head and worn out clutch which resulted in long delays. By the time the race was over, they had finished 20th overall and 5th in the P2 class. Not the result that they were hoping for, or that they knew the SR9 was capable of, but clearly, this Radical was destined for great things.
And while it may not have earned a trophy, it did earn the title “Car of the Year” from Motors TV.
Radical created a unique and original carbon-composite chassis for the SR9 using the very latest in aerodynamic technology. As the regulations have evolved over the years, so has the SR9. True to the same value-for-money roots that Radical’s entire line of cars is known for, the SR9 shares engine architecture with the RXC Turbo that allows it to run on a variety of engines, including the Ford EcoBoost V6 twin-turbo engine.
In 2013, the SR9 became the first race start of the EcoBoost engine at the six hour Lagnua Seca classic. The aerodynamic and chassis improvements proved to be worth it, as they allowed once again for a points position finish.
Though the program has since faced delays and engine supply shortages, Radical and D3 Racing engineers have worked to continue to make further aerodynamic improvements.
The newest car has completed initial test track runs, and whether it is competing in future events or gathering data and making technological advancements through testing, the SR9 continues to showcase impressive innovations made by Radical.