Here I sit, in the Radical. Strapped in, nervous, exhilarated and aware I should try and soak up every second of this once in a life time experience. Sitting in the Radical makes every other road car I have ever come across feel like a Monster Truck. You are sat so close to the floor that your whole perspective of the road feels alien. You almost dare not move as you feel sure your backside will get gravel rash like something out of The Flintstones! The car is deceptively comfortable though. The seats are snug yet accommodating which is a credit to their design as they are just basically moulded plastic. They seem to hug you ever so gently which feels reassuring. Once in, you’re not going anywhere. So, sat there, strapped in and sat on the floor there really isn’t much to see. Of course, there is no windscreen so before you is simply the steering wheel and an electronic cluster that shows RPM’s, speed etc etc. As nothing else is necessary, nothing else is present. That’s the recipe at Radical.
A swift reminder we are powered by a motorbike engine comes at start up. The engine leaps into life and idles high while it warms. The noise is deafening and my pulse doubles. It’s at this point for some unknown reason your brain takes you right back to driving school. You start rehearsing things like clutch, gear, indicate. God knows but checking the basics seems to provide some comfort. Once the revs settle and I feel confident I can operate an indicator I set off up the track and out onto the open road.
I was glad of the couple of hundred metres on the track as it gave me a minute or so of getting acquainted with the car because just rolling along at 5MPH you are immediately aware of how naked you feel. I didn’t opt for a helmet so my eyes are already watering and you look around as though for some reason seeing the land around us from my own two eyes was somehow different from the Radical’s seat. I remember thinking about the reference in the film “Interview with a Vampire” when Brad Pitt’s character is turned and instructed to “look with your vampire eyes”. The same trees were there but they were different. It was all different.
Stop, indicate left, clutch, bite, steer. Good well done. The mirrors are useless due to the vibrations of the car so forget them, pointless. Being mindful that the engine is cold and bike engines naturally rev higher I am tentative at first. Softly does it as damage this thing is unthinkable. I have to add that while the car is very firm once you are actually moving and up into second and third gear it settles and feels so planted. I can feel the car waking up now as everything warms. It’s like waking a sleeping tiger that is under your spell. Fierce yet obedient.
With my confidence now growing and the car feeling like its ready I experiment with more throttle. Like most bike powered machines there isn’t a lot of torque but once revs are singing the thing just flies! Torque really isn’t required though as there is such little weight. The throttle reacts to just a thought flashing through your mind that faster is your desire. The car’s straight-line speed is a sensation. Every hair on the back of my neck stood on end and with wide eyes I was conscious nothing was shifting the grin on my face. The noise from the screaming engine is deafening and everyone within a ten-mile radius now knows how much fun I am having. With each descent into childish abandon I make on the throttle it is immediately followed by a huge adrenaline dump and then hope no law enforcement are around. I can’t check my mirrors for them so it’s just blind luck. Whilst the Radical is impressive in a straight line it’s not really where the car carries its top trump cards. The way this thing stops and turns is beyond physics. There is not 1 degree of roll in the corners, the car stays flat and goes around the corner as if taunting you to turn around and do better next time. I honestly don’t feel like I am anywhere near what the car is capable of and as the tyres warm the gap is growing.
Twisty back roads are now my playground and the car is literally singing. I’m not thrashing it obviously but by keeping the revs high the car is happier. For those with no motorbike experience go and test drive a V-TEC engine at your local Honda dealer. This will all make more sense after that. Its Go-Karting for maniacs and it is like a drug.
From the driver’s seat, you have the perfect view of everything happening. All the factors that are contributing to your joy are there in front of you. You can see the very edge of your rubber kissing the apex of the corners perfectly. The suspension works away almost showing off as you drive and the sensation is weirdly of being at one with your surroundings. I felt in touch with the countryside as I was hammering though as if it were enjoying what I was doing and cheering me on.
If the countryside was somehow cheering me on the crowd was about to go wild for a dual was on the horizon. Up ahead was the distinctive rear light cluster of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and things were about to get interesting………………..
THE AUTO VIP.