RAD­I­CAL: UN­DER NEW OWN­ER­SHIP

One of Bri­tain’s big­gest sportscar brands is un­der new man­age­ment.

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook

Last sum­mer there was a ma­jor change within one of Bri­tain’s big­gest sportscar mar­ques, but chances are you’d barely have no­ticed it.

On the sur­face, the wa­ters of Rad­i­cal Sportscars’ busi­ness were rather serene last year. The com­pany was regularly churn­ing out its much-loved mod­els, and still bask­ing in the glory of the sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone of pro­duc­ing its 1000th SR3 chas­sis – a huge achieve­ment for a firm that started out cre­at­ing just one or two cars a year for Bri­tish club rac­ing.

How­ever, be­yond the sur­face rip­ples ran sig­nif­i­cantly tur­bu­lent un­der­cur­rents, and they were strong enough that they threat­ened to drag the en­tire Rad­i­cal brand un­der.

In May 2016, over­seen by Rad­i­cal share­hold­ers An­dreas Zielke and Jan Oster­loh, the com­pany un­der­went a ma­jor reshuf­fle in the board­room.

Phil Ab­bott, who co-founded Rad­i­cal in 1997 along­side fel­low en­gi­neer and racer Mick Hyde, parted com­pany with the firm he raised from the ground up. Championship coordinator Amanda Ab­bott fol­lowed suit, as did mar­ket­ing man­ager Roger Green.

A new man­age­ment team was in­stalled, led by new CEO Joseph An­wyll, and at last month’s Au­tosport In­ter­na­tional Show, Rad­i­cal Sportscars looked dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent to the gen­eral pub­lic for the first time.

The brand has been re­mod­elled, with a new logo on its face to ac­com­pany the staff changes, and its flag­ship race cars – the SR1, 3 and 8 – have all been com­pletely over­hauled, both me­chan­i­cally and vis­ually.

Rad­i­cal now has a fresh and sharp im­age about it and, ac­cord­ing to An­wyll, the bal­anced books to match.

“Rad­i­cal has un­der­gone a lot of change in less than a year, and the re­brand­ing is the re­sult of a lot of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion,” An­wyll tells Mo­tor­sport News.

“Phil and his team did a huge amount for Rad­i­cal, but the share­hold­ers – Jan and An­dreas – got to a point where they thought the com­pany needed a change.

“Rad­i­cal was los­ing se­ri­ous money” Joe An­wyll

They knew they had fan­tas­tic cars and were ca­pa­ble of giv­ing a su­perb ser­vice, but you have to make money while do­ing that also.”

Rad­i­cal had en­dured a few test­ing years. Af­ter a boom in sales and ex­ports, Rad­i­cal Sportscars reached a peak value of over £4.6m in 2012, but since then its value has slid. Com­pa­nies House rated Rad­i­cal’s out­right value mid-2015 at just around £550,000. A good chunk of that was spent on R&D costs for the new RXC model line, but it’s still a dra­matic swing.

An­wyll, an en­gi­neer by trade with a re­cent back­ground in lux­ury yachts, was brought in to steady the ship along with sales di­rec­tor Dun­can John­ston, who joined from Lo­tus Cars.

An­wyll says his first job was to stem the losses and iden­tify the is­sues.

“The busi­ness was los­ing a se­ri­ous amount of money, to the ex­tent that some months we saw losses of up to £150,000,” ex­plains An­wyll. “I was in­vited to come into the busi­ness and my ex­per­tise is in op­er­a­tions. I came in with this team and we started a turn­around process.

“There were sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems, es­pe­cially in the ac­tual pro­duc­tion process. The com­pany was ba­si­cally chas­ing af­ter cash, so it would move its cars around on the pro­duc­tion sched­ule based on who was go­ing to pay cash for them. That’s about the worst thing you can do in a man­u­fac­tur­ing sense as you let cus­tomers down, it costs a for­tune to pro­duce a car that way, and then the sup­ply chain can’t keep up.

“We brought in a mas­ter pro­duc­tion sched­ule that’s now em­bed­ded in the busi­ness and it’s mak­ing greater ef­fi­cien­cies in the way we design, build and sell cars. When I ar­rived we were mak­ing be­tween five-seven cars per month. Now we’re up­wards of 12 per month and can say with some con­fi­dence to cus­tomers that or­der a car ‘you will get your car then’ and that’s what’s driv­ing the cash flow again. No­body wanted this to go the way of the dodo, so it was im­por­tant to get a grip on it.”

The turn­around has been swift, with Rad­i­cal break­ing even in the Au­tumn quar­ter last year. But, while break­ing even is the first step, for a com­pany with the rep­u­ta­tion of Rad­i­cal the need for growth is on the hori­zon. The re­brand­ing of its cars and cor­po­rate face is a sig­nal of the in­vest­ment go­ing into re­ju­ve­nat­ing the com­pany.

“The en­tire team at Rad­i­cal are driven on pas­sion and it’s im­pos­si­ble not to get caught up in it to be truth­ful,” says An­wyll. “Com­ing into the close of last year we made the de­ci­sion to relaunch the SR1 and the SR8 and re­brand the face of the busi­ness, which are big de­ci­sions when you’re try­ing to sta­bilise a busi­ness. At the end of last year we had the or­der book full for Jan­uary and February, com­pared to the year be­fore when there were no or­ders teed up.

“We wanted to re­brand the busi­ness, but not lose the heritage of it. We have an in­cred­i­ble depth of skill and tal­ent here, with peo­ple who can do things with en­gines that I didn’t even imag­ine pos­si­ble. They can make cars that look like they do, and go like they do, but we have to have the per­for­mance in the busi­ness to match that. We’re now go­ing to take a to­tally new di­rec­tion.”

That new di­rec­tion so far in­volves fresh ex­port and fran­chise deals in Amer­ica, China and the Mid­dle East, as well as a new global rac­ing con­cept de­signed to al­low Rad­i­cal cus­tomers easy ac­cess to the cars they know, on the tracks they’ve al­ways wanted to race on, wher­ever they may be.

“The ul­ti­mate vi­sion for Rad­i­cal is to be a global rac­ing com­pany,” says John­ston, who as sales head is also re­spon­si­ble for the busi­ness ex­pan­sion plan go­ing for­ward.

“The Rad­i­cal busi­ness model works in Europe, with­out ques­tion, and we need to take that to new mar­kets too. We’re blessed with cus­tomers who love rac­ing, and en­joy spend­ing their money go­ing very quickly in cir­cles.

“Rad­i­cal doesn’t just sell a car, it sells an ex­pe­ri­ence. We can design and build you a car, teach you how to drive it, give you places to race it through our own cham­pi­onships, and give you the hos­pi­tal­ity while you’re do­ing it. We want to be able to do that for peo­ple all over the world.

“We want to take peo­ple from Europe and help them race in places like the USA in a for­mat they recog­nise as the Rad­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, like­wise with US driv­ers to help them com­pete in Europe and so on. We want to do things in one way, ev­ery­where, so we can say to a customer ‘OK, you want to race at Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas, here’s what it’ll cost you and we’ll ar­range ev­ery­thing – put you in a car you know and help you to go off and make it a re­al­ity.”

Rad­i­cal is mak­ing a big push for new cus­tomers, and the facelifted car range is a big part of that strat­egy. The flag­ship SR8 first ar­rived in 2005, and since then has had a hand­ful of re­designs. The new one in­cludes more power through an in­creased rev limit and, cru­cially, more aero­dy­nam­ics.

The new design fea­tures an ‘open’ front end, de­signed to chan­nel air through and un­der the chas­sis for the first time. The en­tire SR fam­ily now also boasts a fa­mil­iar ‘face’ mak­ing the Rad­i­cal lad­der more recog­nis­able.

How­ever, per­haps Rad­i­cal’s most cru­cial re­design is in the baby of the group – the SR1. The SR1 Cup was launched in 2013, and is de­signed to help novice driv­ers get started in pro­to­type rac­ing in a more re­laxed learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Driv­ers buy a pack­age of car, en­try fees and tuition costs, and are then guided through the process of be­com­ing a rac­ing driver and put through a championship.

John­ston adds that it is a vi­tal stage for draw­ing new cus­tomers into the Rad­i­cal fam­ily: “The SR1 pack­age and con­cept is fan­tas­tic and re­ally unique. If you’ve never been in a rac­ing car in your life then we’ll walk you through it and at the end you come out as an ex­pe­ri­enced racer and ready to go. The only thing that let it down was that the car looked tired.

“I stood on the stand at the Au­tosport Show in 2016 and looked at the SR1 and just thought ‘nah, I’ll buy an SR3 in­stead as it just looks bet­ter’. That risks new­com­ers com­ing in at too high a level and not hav­ing that en­joy­ment, and at that stage a bad ex­pe­ri­ence can put you off com­pletely. Now we have an SR1 that ticks all the boxes.”

Rad­i­cal has also in­vested in new staff to help its rac­ing di­vi­sions, and has re­cruited for­mer Bri­tish GT cham­pion Alex Mor­timer as its di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and race team.

Mor­timer for­merly worked with Mclaren GT on the devel­op­ment of its new 570S GT4 ma­chine, and pre­vi­ously too with ORECA when he ran the firm’s Dodge Viper in GT3 classes.

Mor­timer said his tar­get was to at­tract new blood into the Rad­i­cal cham­pi­onships. “What Rad­i­cal has achieved in spades in re­cent years is to pull in 40-plus gen­tle­man driv­ers who love their rac­ing, ei­ther by them­selves or along­side a pro­fes­sional driver of their choice,” says Mor­timer.

“The SR1 rep­re­sents a chance to pull ab­so­lute novices in, or more per­ti­nently, kids from kart­ing. And we want to ex­ploit that. If we put peo­ple in at the top of the tree they’ll do a year or two and then go off and do some­thing else. If we bring peo­ple in at the bot­tom, they’ll likely stay with us and move through the ranks with us.

“At the mo­ment no­body sees Rad­i­cal as a driv­ing ca­reer op­tion, but it’s the world’s best-kept se­cret in that re­spect. There is noth­ing that matches the per­for­mance of these cars and the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence they de­liver. They are also be­com­ing more and more rel­e­vant in mod­ern mo­tor­sport as sportscars is now the most vi­able form of ca­reer mo­tor­sport. I made a liv­ing my­self and peo­ple do the same thing in sporstcars, but you don’t do it in sin­gle­seaters un­til you get to the pin­na­cle, and so few peo­ple ac­tu­ally do get there.

“For­mu­las like LMP3 work for us. They are a boom­ing area at the mo­ment and Rad­i­cal is a per­fect feeder for that. LMP3 is priced at a to­tally dif­fer­ent place in the mar­ket to us, so we don’t see it as com­pe­ti­tion, we see it as an op­por­tu­nity to work with. If you’ve ex­ploited ev­ery­thing in the UK in Rad­i­cals, then some­thing like the Euro­pean Le Mans Se­ries and LMP3 is a log­i­cal step, and we’d of­fer ex­cel­lent prepa­ra­tion for that.”

Mor­timer also adds that there would be a push for new teams to get in­volved too, to co­in­cide with the pro­mo­tion of Rad­i­cal’s cham­pi­onships as ca­reer options.

“I’d love to see new teams, as cur­rently we have four or five teams that run 90 per cent of the grid,” he adds. “That’s great and gives the pad­dock a com­mu­nity feel, but I’d also love to see a pro­fes­sional arm come in along­side that too, with teams like the Car­lins and Fortecs of the world bring­ing young driv­ers through the Rad­i­cal route.”

First though, Rad­i­cal has to con­tinue its fi­nan­cial bal­anc­ing act. The buoy­ancy aids have been thrown out, now it’s a mat­ter of pump­ing them up. At the core of that is Rad­i­cal’s 130-strong work­force.

“The turn­around of last year gives us con­fi­dence that we’re do­ing the right thing and mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” adds An­wyll. “We’re also strength­en­ing our team, not re­duc­ing it. In terms of to­tal staff, we’re likely to stay sta­tus quo at the mo­ment as we still have to sta­bilise things fur­ther and get the team around us that will take Rad­i­cal for­ward.

“This year is about grow­ing Rad­i­cal again and get­ting sig­nif­i­cant up­lift from the busi­ness plan, es­pe­cially with re­gard to vol­ume, and that’s got a lot of data be­hind it and a lot of hard work. With the new car line-up I’m con­fi­dent that we’ll get to where we need to be.” ■

“We want the Car­lins and the Fortecs to join us” Alex Mor­timer

Relaunch of the SR8 was a big mo­ment for the com­pany Rad­i­cal has a new look and re­freshed car range for ’17 Rad­i­cal is re­assem­bling a team to take the firm for­wards

Rad­i­cal rac­ing is a sta­ple of UK scene

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