The latest evolution of the Radical SR3 sports prototype, the SR3 XX, is designed to be the flagship model of the brand’s best-selling race car.
And we got the opportunity to drive it.
While the SR3 has been the cornerstone of Radical’s foray into the world of ludicrously quick track day machines, the SR3 XX is something exceptionally unique. It teleports more than it drives, with its super accurate steering and responsive handling capable of placing the car on the ideal line of the track at all times.
There was a feeling of trepidation in the air when I arrived at Hampton Downs, not because it had been raining but because of the nerves I was experiencing. This was my debut outing in any kind of race car – let alone something as advanced as a Radical.
Fortunately, I wouldn’t be alone for the experience as World Superbike race winner and Kiwi motorcycle legend Aaron Slight would be the driver trainer tasked with putting this rookie ‘through the ropes’. Although it was clear he was probably expecting a better response than the ‘nothing’ I offered when asked of my race car experience.
Having Slight on hand was a wise call by the Radical team. A 1500cc four-cylinder RPE-Suzuki Hayabusa Superbike engine powers the SR3 XX. Because of this, it accelerates in a unique way. Radical claim the car can surge from zero to 100km/h in a cruisy 3.1s, but power delivery is constant, and your body becomes pinned back in the driver’s seat.
It becomes a slightly different story at higher speeds. The sound is surprisingly brutal, especially as you near the redline, and it becomes imperative to change your body position to counter against the lift of your head. The 226bhp associated with its Hayabusa engine doesn’t read like much, especially for a race car designed for track use only, however, it only has to push a little over 600kgs of weight. The car’s power-to-weight ratio matches the likes of Porsche current GT3 machine.
The SR3 XX boasts a six-speed sequential transmission with paddle shift. It took me a few laps to get on familiar terms with the gears; each upshift comes with its own memorable ‘thud’ sound, as you surge forward at frightening speed. As you would expect from a Hayabusa superbike engine, the 1.5 strives on its revs. So, you are constantly needing to feed it downshifts to stay on top of the powerband – especially when it comes time to summon a ‘stable full of horses’ on corner exit.
I’m hurtling along the Hampton Downs front straight, the world blurring on the edge of my vision. I don’t actually know how fast I am going in exact kilometres per hour. Still, it is likely no one near the supposed 236km/h top-end speed that Radical says the SR3 XX can achieve. I do not dare remove my gaze from the road to admire the formula-inspired wheel. The LCD rev counter blurs into nothing as you are maintaining a laser-eye focus on the track ahead – corners morphing from one to the next before I know it.
Radical have catered for all drivers with the SR3 XX. While exceptionally quick from the onset, it’s easy enough grasp for a novice racer like myself. Likewise, there is still something left on the plate for the more seasoned driver to push to eleven-tenths.
Like all Radicals of the past, the SR3 XX is characterised by its short wheelbase and bi-plane high-downforce rear wing. The latter encourages you to push a little bit more through corners and rewards some bravery on the throttle.
There is plenty of travel on the brake pedal, and it is easy to modulate under heavy braking. The car ‘s capable of stopping incredibly quickly, and the Suzuki gearbox rewards rapid downshifts. You soon find yourself imitating your favourite MotoGP or World Superbike rider as you shift from 6th to 3rd on the approach for turn one in an instant.
Keen to avoid burying myself in one of the many gravel traps and potentially damaging the super-low front end, I find myself grounding to an almost complete stop about 50 metres shy of the first hairpin on my out lap. I realise how effectively the brakes work, and how they give you the confidence with carrying the SR3 XX’s mid-corner momentum.
Once gaining a beginner’s understanding of the gearing, brakes and the aero generated by the massive wing, it becomes an rewarding drive. The car settled any pre-track nerves for me, and soon I found myself eager to push a little bit more in each passing lap.
The steering wheel feels light in your hand and only once did I notice myself putting extra effort into rotating the car, and that was in the pitlane no less. It is easy enough to correct yourself on the steering, and the front end responds nicely to every input. All in all, it is a user-friendly and highly-impressive package.
Of course, any brilliant handling model race car as good as the SR3 XX will take a bite out of the wallet. Base prices will be upwards of NZ$139,000, and that is before adding on all the available options such as a spin safe clutch or carbon composite aerodynamic wings for the front.
Radical New Zealand has also raised the idea of potential race series for the SR3 XX and even the soon-to-be-revealed SR10 model. The company is based at Hampton Downs, giving drivers ease of access to the circuit. But it will likely be a few years away before any sole Radical race class is launched.
The SR3 XX is an approachable car, and for the novice racer, exceptionally easy to pick up without losing the element of speed and enjoyment. As a weekend track car or a club racer, it’s super. For the level of excitement the car gives, the $140k price tag might sound like a lot, but we ask you to try and find something cheaper capable of a sharper lap time. I just wish my debut race car outing would have lasted just one lap longer.