It’s only nine-o-clock and the temperature’s already nudging 28. With the beach towels hanging limp as dead Bass, it’s ideal beach weather … but we’re not here to dip our toes in the ocean. No! We’re here for something a lot more radical; Actually we’re here at the Phillip Island race circuit to put the Radical SR3 through it’s paces.
Thanks to the Ausie hospitality last night we’re running late, so I’ve just time to slip into my Father Christmas Nomex and get myself strapped into the drivers seat. Looking around the business end of the office, it’s very obvious that this machine’s meant for trackwork. Straight-out the driving position feels good. The LED instrument cluster dominates the work space, while displaying RPM (marked to a banshee-challenging 10,000 RPM), water and oil temperatures, and oil pressure.
180Kw and 650Kg and the Radical SR3 is, well… radical!
With so-many gizmo’s to tweak and fiddle I’m tempted to make changes, but Tim Greaves has given strict instructions not to! So I keep my itchy digits away from anything that has an optional setting! It’s the first run of the day so I need to warm-up the 180 KW 1396cc Powertec before I go blasting down Gardner Straight. Flip the ignition switch, press the button and the creature comes to life and immediately settles down to a sedate burble.
With oil and water temp nudging 60, I get the go ahead to roll. The pole sticking through the floor looks as if it could be somewhat problematic, but the feel of the sequential shift is light but positive. This one’s set to up-shift when pulling back on the lever. With an all up weight of just over 650 Kg and 120 Nm available from 5000 RPM the SR3 launches itself down the ever decreasing tunnel that was the pit lane.
A quick check in my rear-view mirrors confirm I have the line to myself. Turn 1 being a right hander I join the 4.445 km circuit and stick to the left. The redline comes up as fast (Oops, at times the horrible sound of the limiter) as the earth does, to a parachutist without a ‘chute. Selection is so positive that clutchless up-shifts are effortless, and I get through 3 up-shifts before flashing under the bridge and into Turn One. There are a couple of white marks that I use as a brake marker. Pressing the brake pedal while turning in has the 10.5” rear Dunlops squirming for traction. I hope this is just cold tyres – I’d hate to break the rules and adjust the brake bias! The physical effort required to get the 8” front slicks to turn in is energy sapping, and in this heat I feel the sweat already dripping from my armpits.
I exit Turn One at two-thirds track to have a better line for Southern Loop. I blip the throttle and push once on the gearstick; third engages with a reassuring “thunk” and I head for the first apex. The slicks are warming up and the amounts of grip and downforce are amazing. The inside front clips the curb on the second apex, and in no time and 2 up-shifts, I’m being rocketed through the sweep, with only a hint of understeer on the apex.
With Honda approaching like the morning after a hangover, I give those 4 pot callipers a chance to prove their worth. Under this insane braking, the pedal is hard without being wooden and retardation is easily kept on the limit.
Life gets very hectic at this point; dropping down to first, braking and turning in to the apex! With the Powertec screaming in my ear I select second on the way out. The change of power unleashes a chain of events: The front has a slight moment followed by the rear getting out of line which forces the whole plot to run wide onto the rumble strip! Anticipating the worst I prepare to lift, but amazingly the Radical morphs into an off-roader and I’m able to keep my size 7 firmly planted on the loud pedal.
No time to catch my breath; hit third and I’m headed straight for the outside curb on the entry to Siberia. Here I use the whole road and after coming off the brakes I feed in the throttle all the way to the outside curb on the exit. The engine management that drives the injection through the 41 mm throttle bodies is extremely well mapped. All through the warm up phase and at all loads and throttle settings there’s never a stutter!
Approaching the fast left hander I nudge fourth, watching the needle screaming towards 10,500 and another clutchless change into fifth. All very civilised! A small confidence lift into Hayshead, just to get the front to bite, and we’re on the gas to Lukey Heights. A little apprehensive about the bump in the braking zone, I go back to third and lift off too early. Desperately trying to regain the momentum I burying the accelerator . Not clever! With the engine spinning in the sweet spot the back end looses traction and wants to overtake the front. Turning into the slide brings everything back into line … on a slightly wider trajectory.
This is like a roller coaster ride – no time to relax! With MG in my sights I go in at about two thirds track in first and exit on the curb. I select second and short shift into third so that I don’t run out of revs in the fast left hander. What am I thinking? I have to return the Radical for the next scribe … and pit-lane entry is in turn 11! A quick check of my mirrors tells me all’s clear and I carry out a heavy braking manoeuvre while almost on the edge of adhesion – no fuss! The radical just scrubs off speed and allows the direction change as I enter pit-lane.
Perspiring like a Swede in a summer Sauna, I hand over an unscathed Radical to the next gladiator.