RADICAL: UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP
One of Britain’s biggest sportscar brands is under new management.
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