Geek at speed! A ride in a Radical SR8 racing car.

I recently spent a few days in England on business. On my way home, I visited friends and business contacts I don’t see often enough. I thought I would share the achievements of a friend who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.

This is a Radical SR8. It’s a track-day car or a road-going racing car, and is made in Peterborough. You you won’t see many on the road because they have been successful racing. (Top speed 178 mph)

Side view of Radical SR08
Side view of Radical SR08

My friend Steve Prentice designed the engine. The engine is two Suzuki Hayabusa cylinder blocks sharing a common crankshaft. The SR8 is a 2.6 litre V8 sports motorcycle engine in a lightweight chassis with an aerodynamic body! Steve describes the engine as his “best work so far”. The SR8 has held the road-legal lap record at the Nurburgring since 2009. (lap time 6m 48s which, if my calculations are correct, is and average of 112.9 mph!)

I normally avoid showing number-plates and other identifiable things on the internet but I’m making an exception in this case. This particular car is the 2009 specification and was used by Radical as a demonstrator. Steve bought it from Radical a few years ago. He has made a few modifications to the car to make it a little more practical on the road. He uses the car for advertising and for “testing things”.

View of the engine bay of Radical SR8
View of the engine bay of Radical SR8
Front view of SR08RAD Radical SR8 road-going track car.
Front view of SR08RAD Radical SR8 road-going track car.

A visit to Steve’s office, lair of the SR8

Steve lives with his wife near Banbury. His office is rented space in a barn in the middle of a field a short distance from his home. When I arrived at the office Steve was completing an overhaul of the SR8. That’s Steve with the bald head and the overalls!

Steve says the performance of the SR8 owes as much to the chassis and the brakes as to the engine. As you can see the chassis is a space-frame. The brakes are just something else!

I think Steve took pity on me or was fed up with me hanging around. He employed me to fetch and carry tools and to hold spanners. I even provided unskilled help filling it up with oil. With an SR8 even filling it with oil and water is not straightforward. Both lubrication and cooling systems have several potential airlocks. The filling process involves: filling, starting the engine, bleeding, stopping, checking the level and then repeating…

A sedate spin in the countryside

My reward (or punishment?) for being an unskilled labourer cum spectator, was a 40 minute test spin in Steve’s SR8. I needed instructions on how to get into the passenger seat. I also needed help with the 5 point harness.

The SR8 has no windscreen. Before we set off, the pair of us dressed up in black balaclava ski masks and perspex safety specs. Steve said that “we looked like a pair of bank robbers making a get-away”!

The performance of the engine, handling and brakes is everything you would expect. Steve was mostly driving on single carriageway roads. I couldn’t see the instruments, so I have to assume that the maximum speed we reached was 59.5 mph. The acceleration is literally breath-taking. The engine delivers not so much a “kick up the arse” as an “aggressive shove in the small of the back”, and the brakes are equal to it. The handling is excellent too. We hadn’t fitted the floor-pan under the engine bay so that any minor oil leaks would become obvious. As a result Steve said that he could feel a certain lack of down-force. I definitely didn’t notice anything!

I told Steve to pose like a proud father, so here he is. He goes to track days and race meetings, so if you see him with the car, introduce yourself. If you tell him you know me, he may give you a more detailed explanation of how the car is put together.

Steve Prentice, designer of the engine in the SR08
Steve Prentice, designer of the engine in the SR8