So today we were invited to try out Experience Mad’s ‘Extreme Radical Pro Track Experience’ at Silverstone. For £1650 you and up to 9 other drivers get to race on the full Grand Prix circuit, don’t let that price put you off – it’s well worth it!
In total you get 2 hours of track time split between 10. So the less people the better, but then, obviously the cost per person increases. The car is a Radical SR3 RS, it does 0.60 in 3.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 MPH. Weighing only 570 KG and being powered by an engine from a Hayabusa you get an astounding 420 BHP per tonne, its no slouch!
When arriving on the day you sign on at Race Control along with all the other drivers. The events are held on Open Pit race days so you will be on track with like minded novice drivers, professionals and even factory race teams. This can be a bit daunting at first, especially if you are new to driving on a racetrack, but its really nothing to worry about.
After you have signed on at Race Control you move across to have your driver briefing. These are the laws of the land and the rules which you have to abide by on track, so acting like a sponge is a good idea at this point.
Once you have been briefed/scared a little you move back to your garage, where you are given an overview of the car by your instructor. Sign the waiver (which bears a £2000 excess if you crash, and an open ended figure if you write it off!) then you can decide who will be the first victim! Experience Mad provide you with gloves and a helmet, you don’t get race overalls so a long sleeve top and trousers are the order of the day – plus a change of clothes if it’s wet.
So your turn arrives…as you gingerly step over the side of the Radical and onto the seat you notice how tight it is inside. It’s a really snug fit and you have to shimmy your way down the seat into an almost laying down position…then you realise you actually can’t see an awful lot and this is a proper racing car!
Fire up the beast and lift off the clutch slowly so you don’t stall, exit the pit lane and floor it! All the way round the track you are accompanied by a real life racing driver in the passenger seat, he is also ever present in your ear through the radio system in the car. He guides you through everything, from when to brake, turn in, accelerate, road position and even watching out for others overtaking on track; allowing you to get the most out of your experience.
I had 25 minutes of on track action, a bit longer would have been nice as you really start to flow and learn the corners after 15 minutes or so. You can feel yourself improving each lap, it’s a great sense of achievement – so is overtaking a race spec Ferrari GT3 on Hanger straight!
The Radical is such a raw car, the power delivery is smooth but each gear change is accompanied by a BANG as you get hit in the back with a surge of acceleration. When braking you have to really push down hard to get them to even think about starting to slow you, there’s no mamby pamby driver aids here! Hit a kerb and you feel it jar through the stiff chassis, through the wheel and into your hands. And the grip, well, the grip is just incredible! Our session was in the damp after some light rain, and with wet weather tyres on you can take Village Corner at nigh on 80 MPH without a hint of sliding – it’s just insane!
You also get a flying lap with your instructor – ours was Bradley Ellis, 2007 British GT Champion. Quickly you become aware that you are probably driving the car at about 60% of the pace it can do! You also notice how firm racing drivers are with the cars, braking is hard and throws you forward, a change in direction pushes you into the side of the car, it’s breath-taking to watch a pro in action.
All your laps are recorded via car mounted cameras linked to a racelogic telemetry box, you can get a copy of these at the end of the day on a USB stick for £30 per person, for post-race analysis.
I have driven a few track days previously, all of them being in a Nissan GTR, the Radical was on a whole ‘nother level! It’s without doubt the closest you will ever get to being a racing driver. Getting the chance to drive on the full Grand Prix Circuit at Silverstone is also excellent. The times I have watched GT Racing from the stands over the past few years, and wondered what it’s actually like to take those corners, at speed in a stripped out racing car – well, now I know!
If you are a petrol head, or even a keen motorsport fan its well worth £165 if you can muster 10 brave drivers, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed.