Radical SR3: Review

$85,000 $125,000 Mrlp

With mind-blowing pace through the corners, Radical\'s SR3 will make you feel like an F1 pilot.

It’s called the Radical SR3 and apart from being street legal in more than a few countries including Japan and its home market the UK, it can lap Eastern Creek Raceway two seconds quicker than a V8 Supercar.

That’s no small feat, but if you’re still not convinced, then its more powerful Radical SR8 sibling still holds the lap record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife for a production car, with an astonishing time of 6 minutes 48 seconds, set in 2009.

To put that into some perspective, the Nissan GT-R needed 7 minutes 24 seconds to complete the lap in 2010.

But here’s where it gets even more incredible; the actual car that did the record breaking drove from the UK to Germany and back, on public roads.

Unfortunately, Radical sports cars are not road legal in Australia – which is arguably a good thing – so if you want to drive one you’ll need access to a proper race circuit, and Sydney’s Eastern Creek is a good place to start.

It’s also the home of Radical Australia, and CarAdvice was given a rare opportunity to drive one of these four-cylinder missiles thanks to Sydney-based company Adlux and the car’s generous owner, Nic Stavropoulos.

Looking more like scaled-down Le Mans racer than any track day special, a range of bespoke Suzuki motorcycle engines powers the Radical SR3. Our test car was fitting with the more powerful 1.5-litre version tuned by Powertec, although a 1.3-litre engine is available for those not quite so brave.

The performance figures alone are simply mind-blowing for such a small displacement engine. Weighing in at just 700 kilograms (with driver) the SR3 accelerates from 0-100km/h in around 3.3 seconds and its top speed is 250km/h. But it’s not so much the straight-line pace that excites; it’s more about the ballistic speeds this thing can carry through corners that will leave you gob-smacked.

It’s a hard core track car no question, but amazingly, anyone that drives a car will have no problem behind the wheel of a Radical after some in-car instruction from the professional instructors on hand at the numerous corporate track days that Radical Australia runs.

The Radical SR3 is a two-seater, so it’s a fairly tight squeeze as you lower yourself into the driver’s seat before snapping on the small diameter steering wheel. There’s no power steering either, so you’ll need to get used to muscling the wheel in the tighter corners.

It’s not essential that you know how to drive a manual car either as the Radical uses a six-speed sequential transmission married to either a manual shift lever or steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (our car was fitted with the latter).

Standard seat belts are replaced by a full six-point racing harness; an essential piece of kit given the 2.5 g the SR3 can pull through the corners.

You’ll need a full-face helmet too, but even then the wind will try to remove it for you half way down the main straight, regardless of how tight you’ve pulled the adjustment strap.

Flick the ignition switch and hit the starter button and the Radical fires up with sound effects identical to its Suzuki Hayabusa superbike donor.

Even using the paddle shifters, you still need to engage the clutch for first and second gears, but from that moment on it’s all paddles.

The warp-speed acceleration on offer as we approach turn two from our pit lane exit is huge as my Radical instructor Ian Barrett calls for “big brakes and down three gears” before the tricky turn three.

Shift time between gear changes is 100 milliseconds and by now you’re probably feeling like a bona fide F1 pilot, as the transmission automatically ‘blips’ the throttle on every downshift when you’re hard on the brakes. While we’re on the subject, they’re four-pot calipers with tremendous stopping power, but unlike your daily driver, these are unassisted, so you’ll need to put your boot into it unless you want to end up trimming the grass paddocks at Eastern Creek.

Even after multiple laps it’s still hard to get your head around the sheer speed the Radical can carry through the faster corners, such is the downforce the car’s sophisticated aerodynamic package generates. Once you know the correct lines through the turns, you tend to keep pushing further, but without ever finding the adhesion limits.

That limpet-like grip is never more apparent than when you’re flat to the board in sixth down the main straight at close to 230km/h before turning in for turn one, which can be taken flat-out provided you have big enough gonads and, of course, sufficient driving skills.

It won’t matter whether you have driven Porsches, Ferraris or other super sports cars, the Radical SR3 will be the fastest thing you’ve ever driven on track, no ifs or buts.

By all means sign up for ‘The Radical Experience’ and get behind the wheel of one of these V8-Supercar crushing rockets, but be prepared to develop a lifelong addiction.