They say all the best ideas start small but grow fast.
Twenty-five years ago this week, Phil Abbott founded Radical Sportscars with his business partner Mick Hyde. Soon adding the support of racer Tim Greaves and within seven years together they had created five successful sports racers and a Le Mans prototype.
Such was the impact of these cars, particularly the SR3, they still form the basis of Radical’s current output. The small spaceframe chassis overlaid with a fibreglass body and powered by a motorcycle engine remains the same formula some twenty-one years later.
‘I had the idea to build my own race car some years before 1997,’ Phil said. ‘Both myself and Mick Hyde were keen club racers and we were both looking for something new. Once I told him about my ideas for a lightweight sports racer powered by a bike engine, he was in!’
Together they made a formidable pair, with marketing-guru Mick spreading the word around the world, Radical quickly found their place in the market and sales took off. First with the simple, but very effective Clubsport, then with the rapid Prosport. Both Phil and Mick were selling, racing and developing the products by understanding what amateur drivers wanted for trackdays and racing. They were building and selling the type of cars this they loved to race themselves and it soon became evident there were many more racers who shared this passion. This understanding meant the products became more than just cars.
They began their own race championships, providing the right type of races with a focus on good service, reliability and realistic running costs. It had to be fun, and it had to be good value. As Phil will explain, those fundamentals remain just as integral with his latest Revolution cars today.
It was the Radical SR3 of 2001 with its two-seater layout that really grew the market (now approaching 2000 sold). It was a crazy time for Radical in the early 2000s, with a new car developed almost every year. The SR4 of 2003 (which is still raced as the SR1), the monster that was the SR8 of 2004 with an in-house V8 engine, developed from a pair of Hayabusa motors, the Honda K20-powered SR5 and the SR9 LMP2 car that first raced at Le Mans in 2006.
There were many others too, such as the SR3SL road-legal version of the SR3 with full European type approval. Finally, the RXC coupe, which could be bought either as a road machine, or as an endurance racer.
It’s been quite a career. He may not race his own cars any longer, but Phil is as passionate, focused and enthusiastic about today as ever and shows no signs of slowing down.
As he explains; ‘My main motivation has always been to give drivers the best and safest cars at reasonable prices and realistic running costs, along with innovation and the application of the very latest technology available in its time. Because of how I started, I’ve always viewed things from the inside out. For me it’s all about the owner/driver having the most enjoyable time out on track.
'This was the reason that I wanted to create a new product line, with the latest materials and technology and that’s how Revolution Race Cars came to be. It’s good to listen and incorporate input and advice from like-minded racers. Our partners in Revolution. Marcello Marateotto and Michel Frey, are racers with considerable racing experience, and now my son James, who has been working on and developing race cars for 12 years, including many Radical models, now heads up the technical and development team.
‘A great result has always been about teamwork, and this new team has huge potential. I have been lucky enough to work with many talented engineers - some of whom are with us on this journey also and long may that continue.’
‘The family of SR3 cars still has a popular following but there is a limit to how far you can go with a spaceframe. The developments in carbon safety cell and bodywork production meant that Revolution can now provide cars with a higher level of protection and installation stiffness. Starting again also allowed us to optimise everything from aerodynamics to driver ergonomics by using cutting-edge analysis tools and to create something today that I am as proud of as that first Clubsport.’
‘The cars are certainly faster and more exciting with higher levels of safety than ever before, but I remain committed to that original dream of creating cars for racers - like Marcello, Michel and myself – and to bringing that joy of ownership for as many people as possible.’
“just wait for the book!”
25 years on, Phil and the team have just launched their latest car, the 500bhp Revolution A-One 500SC.