Radical Sportscar Sets Up Shop in Canada
The name Radical Sportscars might not mean much to anyone who isn’t a hardcore aficionado of sports car racing, but there is a sizeable following around the world for these closed-wheel, open-cockpit cars powered by Suzuki motorcycle engines, including Canada. Since 1996, more than 1,700 units have been sold worldwide.
Ideal for both racing and track days alike, these lightweight, but fast cars have the appearance of a scaled down LMP2 car and come complete with all of the hallmarks that those cars are known for – large rear wing and diffuser, front splitter, sequential gearbox, paddle shifters and available headlights – but for a fraction of the cost. Raced all over the world, particularly in Europe, the Peterborough, UK-based company has an official presence in just about every part of the globe, but prior to February 2013, their sales network did not extend to Canada.
Enter Robert Burgess, the new president of Radical Sportscars Canada, a 20-year plus road racing veteran who is interested in ‘getting back into a real racecar’ as he tells PRN Ignition in a recent interview. After performing his due diligence, he settled on Radical and decided to reach out to the company about getting his hands on one. Once he began dialoguing with management he learned of the company’s desire to expand into Canada and expand its North American footprint (there are three existing dealers in the U.S.), and soon the conversation evolved into Burgess heading up expansion efforts into the Great White North.
Fast-forward several months, and the operation is now over four months old and has already sold and delivered its first car. Despite having sold just one car at press time, Burgess is optimistic that figure will grow as the company’s presence becomes more established. He tells PRN Igniton that there were already 25 Radicals in Canada without an official Canadian sales channel, so clearly a demand for the cars exists here.
Operating out of a small suburban-Toronto facility in Brampton, Ontario, Burgess is currently retailing a lineup of four cars: the entry level SR1 ($55,000 – all figures CAD), the mid-range, volume-leading SR3 RS which was the company’s first official Canadian sale ($79,000), the V8-powered SR8 ($150,000) and the RXC Coupe ($150,000), which Burgess claims is as fast as a Porsche GT3 Cup car that costs approximately $80,000 more.
To get a better sense of the company’s products, this writer met Burgess and his small support team at one of their recent track days at Toronto Motorsports Park, just south of Hamilton, Ontario to sample a brand-new SR3 RS. Having never driven a bonafide race-car before – although I did ride shotgun in one last fall at CTMP – I’m quite excited about the prospect of turning a few laps in anger at TMP.
Upon arrival, I put on a helmet and went out with Burgess as a passenger for a few laps to get the feel of the SR3 RS (and to shoot some cool video). It’s hard to describe what it’s like to ride in (and drive) a low-slung, open-cockpit racecar that has tons of downforce and corners like it’s on rails. The closest thing the sensation resembles – at least for me – is that of being in a go-kart…a much faster, cooler-looking go-kart.
At any rate, Burgess spent a good half-hour turning hot laps before we switched seats. I’m not going to lie – I was a little nervous as I was strapping in, especially because the cockpit of a racecar is a completely new experience for me. For all of the racing I witness as a journalist, it’s a whole other ballgame when I am the one in the driver’s seat.
After doing a brief tour around the paddock parking lot to get a feel for the car, we headed out onto the track. Because this track day is a public session I had to be cognizant of others turning laps in their road cars – many of which I could catch up to very quickly. It took a couple of laps to get used to not using the clutch while lapping (it only needs to be engaged at launch), and a few times I did mix up the upshift and downshift paddles, but it quickly became second nature at which point the fun factor increased enormously.
Because of my lack of familiarity with both the car and the track – both of which were firsts – I chose not to push too hard, but I was fast enough to get a sense of the car’s hyper-quick acceleration and braking characteristics and got a very good feel for its taut handling through the turns and its overall speed. Overall, it’s an easy car to drive fast and, with a little practice and experience, it has the potential to make just about anyone feel like a racecar driver.
Based on my experience, I understand the appeal of these cars for those current and prospective owners: it looks and drives like a racecar and can be raced as one, but it’s also ideal for track days (having two seats makes it appealing for couples, as Burgess points out) and is reasonably priced for a purpose-built machine.
Speaking of racing, there is a new Radical Canada Championship based in Ontario, sanctioned by CASC-OR and run in conjunction with the Formula Libre class on regional race weekends (see schedule below). Although the Radicals run in the Formula Libre class they are competing against one another only and competitors are awarded points towards their own distinctive championship.
As it stands now, all Radicals regardless of make and model year are eligible to compete in the series but that may change as more entries join in coming years. There were four Radicals at the first round at Shannonville in May and Burgess hopes to see that figure rise as the season wears on.
It is still early days for Radical Sportscars Canada, but Burgess is confident having an official presence in Canada will only help strengthen and grow the brand. Based on first-hand experience, I can personally attest to the company’s growth potential.
2013 Radical Sportscars Canada Championship
May 4-5 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON.
May 28 – Shannonville Motorsport Park, Shannonville, ON
June 22-23 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON
July 27-28 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON
Aug. 24-25 – Calabogie Motorsports Park, Calabogie, ON
Sept. 14-15 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON
Sept. 28-29 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON