We ride along in a Radical racecar at Dubai Autodrome
Recently, the LoadME Racing Team contacted us to experience the Radical race-car at the Dubai Autodrome. The team are taking part at the ongoing Radical Middle East Cup (RMEC) series which started around October and ends in April next year.
The RMEC is part of the UAE National Racing Series, run by AUH Motorsports. It is claimed to be one of the most successful racing series currently running in the GCC region, as it brings somewhat cost-efficient racing to part-time motorsports enthusiasts. The grid is comprised of 12 to 16 cars, with drivers mainly based in the GCC. Drivers as young as 14 to as old as 60-plus have raced in the RMEC.
AUH motorsports provides the Radical cars to the drivers, and also provides maintenance and storage for the vehicles, along with a dedicated mechanic during the races. Competitors also have the option to buy the car themselves, whether brand new or second-hand, but you will need deeper pockets for that. Teams can also get sponsorship on their cars. About 12 races are held in a season, divided into 6 weeks. Races are held on Fridays and Saturdays divided between the Dubai Autodrome, the Yas Marina Ciruit in Abu Dhabi and the Losail International Circuit in Bahrain.
LoadMe, a startup which offers an online on-demand solution that “accelerates time in the logistics industry”, has teamed up with Catalin Voicu, a talented driver who won the ‘Best Novice Driver’ award in 2015 at the Radical Middle East Cup.
We were invited on one the practice days by the team. It was being held at the Dubai Autodrome during one of the track days for advanced drivers. One of the reasons the Radical cars are allowed to run at the same time as regular cars on the track is because the wheels are not exposed. When wheels are exposed, as with Formula race-cars, there is a greater risk of tyres breaking off the vehicle during the event of a crash.
Looking at the car, the UK-built Radical SR3 is powered by a 1.5-litre Suzuki engine, mated to a 6-speed sequential gearbox with paddle shifters. It churns out about 210 hp and 168 Nm of torque. It may not sound like much, but given the fact that the whole car weighs only 570 kg, it can push from 0-100 kph in just 3.3 seconds. The chassis is a two-seater, powder-coated carbon steel spaceframe, with an integrated safety cell complying with the FIA Production Sports Car Safety Structure Test.
Our Arabic editor Tammam had a go in the car first as a passenger. After he was done, he simply told me with a wry smile, “Have fun, you will be shocked!”. Alrighty then. As I hopped into the passenger seat and got strapped in, Catalin jumped in next to me and we were off. As soon as we headed out the pits and onto the circuit, Catalin gunned it and my head just jolted back. Since there is no roof, you feel the full brunt of air resistance hitting your helmet, which constantly felt like it was going to come off. It felt like I was in a go-kart on steroids.
As Catalin hit top gear, we were approaching the first corner. With my experience of track days with different sports cars at the Dubai Autodrome, I usually brake much earlier, which was definitely not the case here. While in the straights Porsches and Ferraris may have been pulling away from us since the Radical car can only do a top speed of around 220 kph, in the corners no road car present had a chance to catch us. To spice things up, another Radical team race-car got out for practice during our session, and I got a first hand taste of the some of the action racing drivers experience during the race days.
The Radical cars are certainly more hardcore than we expected. As Catalin explained to us, it is the fastest car you can drive out of all current amateur Racing Series on offer in its price bracket. Unfortunately, due to whatever reason, we did not get the chance to drive the car ourselves. However, anyone can have the chance to participate in one of the racing weekends if you have the money, or an entire season for about Dhs 300,000 (barring additional costs); or if you want to just experience or drive a Radical car themselves on one of the track days, which can be arranged through AUH motorsports.