A few months ago you may remember that I was taken round Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in James Abbott's Radical SR3 RS for a couple of flying laps. Well I've now gone one better thanks to Will Brown of the Radical Owners Club and David Frankland, driver in the Radical Clubman's Cup.
Will had read the article about my previous experience and got in touch to invite me to a track day organised by the Radical Owners Club with the prospect of being taken out for some passenger laps. Only this time, it would be on the full Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Those of you who know me will know I adore the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch so I naturally jumped at the opportunity.
Thankfully the weather was glorious at Brands Hatch on Monday and conditions were perfect out on track. I met up with Will and discussed the plan for the day. There were to be three groups of cars, one made up of all the radicals, taking to the track for 20 minute sessions each hour. My ride was to take place later in the day so it gave me a chance to take some photos of the selection of cars taking part. There were a few well known drivers there on instructing duties, including Martin Donnelly and Tony Gilham, who was spotted without his trade beanie hat!
At midday, I headed back to the garages and Will introduced me to David Frankland, my trusty chauffeur in his Radical SR3 RS. It was clear I was going to be out for the whole 20 minute, a prospect I was relishing. After being kitted up with a helmet and gloves and being strapped in, it was time to be wheeled out of the garage and onto the pit lane.
With the session underway, we were off. David had told me he would take a couple of laps to get up to speed, but straight away it felt like being fired out of a cannon. The acceleration of the 1.5litre machine was incredible, particularly as the gear ratios had been shortened to improve it. As we got into a rhythm I could start to take a bit more in. David had a countdown timer inside the cockpit timing down the 20 minute session which I used to get a rough idea of the lap time around the 2.3 mile track.
Now up to speed I glanced at the timer as we crossed the start line, I could also see the speed readout too in kph. Reaching 195kph before braking for Paddock Hill bend we sailed round the tricky downhill adverse camber corner with the car sticking to the tarmac like glue. As we hit the bottom of the hill I could feel it in my stomach before the climb back up towards Druids. Braking hard for the short blast to Graham Hill bend. Despite it only being a relatively short distance between Druids and Graham Hill, the acceleration of the Radical meant hard braking was still needed. Clipping the apex and then running onto the kerb on the exit onto Cooper straight. It was another blast up to 175kph before braking into Surtees as David took a wide line on entry to gain the best entry speed on exit for the long straight to follow.
As we headed out onto the GP loop I was now in uncharted territory. Hammering through Pilgrims drop in a blur, I kept an eye on the Speedometer which hit 205kph before braking for Hawthorn Bend. It was here that you realise just how good the radical is. We entered the 90 degree right hander at a staggering 160kph (100mph) and still the car wasn't going to go anywhere David wasn't directing it to. As David had said, anyone can drive in a straight line at high speed, not everyone can take tight corners at high speed.
Through the double Apex Westfield Bend the track takes on another feeling. The trees start to encroach either side and the dip and rise up to Sheene Curve give you a sense that you are on a country road. It's a good job we weren't though as the speed we were travelling David would have lost his licence on the spot and handed a very hefty fine. Through Sheene we quickly approached one of my favourite corners for taking photos at, Stirlings. The slight downhill entry into the banked left hander followed by the slight rise on the exit always gives great photo opportunities. However, I was left a little disappointed as from the passenger seat I didn't really notice those things. Disappointment didn't last long though as we were soon speeding along the tree lined run to Clearways and back out into the main Brands Hatch Arena. Relatively hard breaking was needed on the entry to Clark Curve, the final corner, but it was foot right down through it to ensure high speed down Brabham Straight and over the finish line. I checked the timer as we crossed, 1 minute 40 seconds. That was pretty quick and I timed a couple of other laps which were 1 or 2 seconds quicker. Even more impressive with a great lump like me, or was that success ballast, in the passenger seat.
The 20 minutes soon ended and we were back in the garage before long. David asked if I was ok. He couldn't see the huge grin that was plastered across my face for the duration underneath my helmet. It was brilliant. I can't thank David enough for taking me out, normally I'm a bit of a control freak but at no point did I feel fear. That might have changed had I been driving. I also am very grateful to Will for inviting me. It was a brilliant day and one I will never forget. It is unlikely I will get to drive the famous Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch, even less likely at the speed I had experienced, but being a passenger is no less exciting I'm sure.