Those with big budgets and a desire to show off their credentials as wannabe race drivers have no shortage of options these days, what with pretty much every supercar coming to market with a hardcore variant honed for track use. Yet while cars like the McLaren 765LT and Lamborghini Huracán STO largely serve as tribute acts, the Radical SR10 is very much the real thing: a turnkey, off-the-shelf race car you can buy from one of eight dealerships in the United States and which is eligible for Radical’s own racing series. As a slick-tire-wearing toy capable of generating more than 2.0 g’s of lateral grip and posting similar lap times to a top-flight GT3 race car, it’s also more than capable of dominating the sort of high-end track events where stripe-wearing supercars congregate.
Radical is based in Peterborough, England, but around two-thirds of its production comes to the U.S.; the company reckons there are around 1000 of its cars on this side of the pond. Radical offers a graduated range of cars which operate on the same principle employed by dealers in illicit substances: once you’ve had a taste, you’ll want more. All have similar bodywork, clearly inspired by prototype Le Mans racers, with the entry-level SR1 and midline SR3 models both employing Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle-sourced four-cylinder engines developing 182 and 226 horsepower, respectively. But we’ve come straight to the top of the range to drive the not-street-legal SR10, which features a heavily reworked turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder from Ford. Output is strong, at 425 horses and 380 pound-feet of torque, and the engine is tasked with motivating just 1600-or-so pounds of car.
That’s roughly the same mass as the SR8 model, which formerly topped the brand’s lineup and sported a hand-built V-8 created from combining two Suzuki 1.3-liter four-bangers on a common crankshaft. But although the SR10 is much less exotic, it has more torque and is cheaper to buy and run—qualities that have helped make it Radical’s fastest-selling car since it went on sale in 2020. The company says that both the EcoBoost engine and the racing-spec six-speed sequential transmission can run for at least 40 hours of hard track use between rebuilds—ample longevity for a typical race season.
Our drive took place on the 2.9-mile Portimão Circuit in Portugal, a thrillingly three-dimensional track where several of the fastest corners feature blind elevated entry points. Upping the excitement was a pack of other Radical cars that we shared the track with, many piloted by experienced racers. The SR10, however, proved to be a rather friendly, unfrightening introduction to slick tires and downforce. As with almost all of Ford’s EcoBoost applications, the SR10’s engine was the least special part of the experience, a provider of speed rather than character. The four-pot’s abundance of torque is its defining trait, accompanied by a soundtrack that turns louder and angrier as it approaches its 7000-rpm redline, yet it never finds any compelling harmonics (at least not through the padding of a race helmet). But there is so much midrange muscle on hand that even short-shifting well before the rev limiter barely diminishes the rate of acceleration. Radical claims the SR10 can hit 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds and tops out at 180 mph.
Radical’s chassis has no difficulty handling huge amounts of thrust. It took about half a lap to bring the SR10’s Hankook slicks up to temperature, but this was the only time traction felt less than total. Even then, the SR10 didn’t come off as skittish. Once warmed the tires started to deliver the sort of grip that inspires comparisons with Velcro and requires mental adjustment for anyone more accustomed to lapping conventional road cars. One of the first challenges for novice Radical pilots is building faith in how early full power can be deployed on corner exits.
The car’s front end is equally incisive, the SR10 spearing toward apexes and resisting understeer even as we carried increasingly optimistic speeds into Portimão’s tighter turns. Communication through the unassisted steering is shouted rather than whispered, and the wheel requires serious muscle, especially at higher speeds as downforce levels increase. Radical has slightly raised the steering column for the 2022 model year to improve elbow room when turning the wheel, but amateur pilots may prefer to specify the optional power steering that our example lacked. Alternatively, cancel your gym membership. For drivers purely chasing lap times or who prefer particular handling characteristics, the SR10’s front and rear pushrod-actuated suspension is highly adjustable.
Braking is the area where the SR10 feels most different to what could be termed more normal cars. Radical fits cast-iron racing discs, and although these lack the initial bite of the brakes on production supercars, they have no difficulty retarding the SR10’s modest mass. But the lack of ABS makes it easy to cross the fine line between peak braking effort and lockup, with the latter being rather easy to induce as downforce levels diminish when slowing from higher speeds. Our car’s tires were markedly less round at the end of our stint than they were at the beginning.
For 2022, Radical is offering a factory halo-style impact protection frame inspired by the ones seen on Formula 1 cars. This wasn’t fitted to the demonstrator we drove, but we did get to experience it from the passenger seat of another SR10 piloted by one of the company’s pro drivers. The halo surrounds the cockpit like a very small roll cage and makes getting in and out far harder. Initial impressions were that it made the SR10 feel surprisingly claustrophobic despite its lack of a roof, but it only took a couple of laps for our brains to filter it out, as frontal visibility is only slightly affected.
Radical has yet to confirm pricing for the revised SR10, but presuming it stays close to the $161,900 ask of the previous version, it will remain, in absolute if not relative terms, a performance bargain for those looking to hone their skills on the track.
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Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com