Yep, the racing bug has bitten me. The last two months since the previous Radical SR1 Cup round at Snetterton have felt like very long ones indeed, and I’m itching to get going again.
Over that summer break I’ve been mulling a phrase you hear every now again that ‘racing isn’t a real sport’. As much as I love playing cricket and football, neither can quite match the intensity of being wheel to wheel with others at over 100mph and with no margin for error. If you love the competitive nature of playing sport, you will love racing. It’s the hardest sport I’ve ever experienced, and also the most addictive.
Soapbox dismounted, thankfully the season finale at a Brands Hatch basking in late summer sunshine is now upon us, and there’s a true end of term feel around the place.
There’s still a championship to be won (fingers crossed for my team mate Dave Morgan - team orders won’t be necessary as I don’t usually get near him in the races), but for those without a shot at winning it, like yours truly, attentions will already be turning on what to do next year.
So what do you do next after a season in the Radical SR1 Cup? It’s not an entry-level championship that will leave you high and dry with a car you can’t use; you’re in the Radical ‘family’ now.
If this is your first year in the SR1 Cup, you can do the championship again. Done your second year? You’ve several options. You can enter into the Radical Sprint Championship, a series predominantly featuring the bigger, faster, more powerful SR3s (and a car that’s the next rung up the ladder should you wish to upgrade your SR1 for one), but also with a class for the SR1s. This allows you to head off racing at Radical Festival at Spa-Francorchamps, too.
Once you're in the Sprint Championship, you can swap your control tyres from the SR1 Cup for a set of slicks. At this point, things really get interesting. I should know; Radical let me have a go in the Sprint Championship back at Snetterton in July. Lucky me.
Well, I was supposed to try slicks, but initially the weather had other ideas… With slicks though also comes the option of full which were needed for qualifying. Clearly it was easier to drive on full wets than the usual SR1 tyres that are used in both the wet and dry, but still I was not quick enough and qualified in the middle of my class.
Then the drama really started. The torrential rain had given way to bright sunshine, and in the time between leaving the paddock to heading to the assembly for race one the ongoing Formula 4 race had dried the circuit out. This meant a mad dash back the other way for slicks.
This race was then the first time I had ever driven on slicks. I’d been told that for the first couple of corners it’s like driving on ice as the tyres have no heat, but luckily there were two warm up laps this time around as we’d had no dry running, so the tyres were good to go.
Slicks are somewhat of a revelation: they allow you to brake later and carry more corner speed, which is pretty much the holy grail of driving quickly. What’s more, they make the SR1 an even more grown up racing car; I’ve said it before, but this really is about as quick a car you can get for a novice racer. Putting slicks on it also allows for progression, which is what Radical racing is all about; you start at the bottom, and work your way up the ladder.
I ended up fourth in class in the race, which was followed up by another fourth when the heavens opened and full wets were needed in race two. More on that one in part nine of the Radical SR1 Cup diary.
The Sprint Championship also has a third race at the end of a day to the two of the SR1 Cup, but it proved one too many for me in the changeable conditions; I’d got the set-up wrong when back on slicks and struggled for rear grip and downforce through the high-speed corners. Despite taking advantage of a chaotic start and running as high as second in class, I was gradually picked off by three rivals, ending up fifth in class, with lap times that were barely an improvement on the SR1 control tyres.
I’m sounding like a proper racing driver there with excuses, but that’s the thing about racing: it gets under your skin. And now the chance has arrived at Brands to do something about it on the track. I’m sure it won’t be dull.
Read the Radical race diary entries