A Revolution for sports-racers
Meet the new British constructor – founded by a familar name – aiming to execute a radical change in sports-prototype racing
Last Thursday, October 25, the fruits of a remarkable year’s graft under the radar manifested themselves when a new and innovative sports-racer emerged from Snetterton’s Archie Scott Brown Centre into the autumn sunshine to spontaneous applause. Following yet another late night and hours of tweaking in its garage, the sense of team achievement was palpable. Revolution
Cars MD Phil Abbott’s eyes moistened as his son James growled the futuristically styled prototype, cloaked in marque branding, towards Riches corner accompanied by a delicious V6 soundtrack.
“The past six weeks have been crazy with pushing [towards this moment]. Everybody involved in bringing this car to reality wanted a bit longer. But they didn’t get permission from me,” says Abbott, 63, co-founder of Radical Motorsport back in 1998.
His ousting in June 2016 from the empire he nurtured – and which built 2000 race cars in its first 12 years, matching singleseater legend Van Diemen’s feat in 1985 – set him on another extraordinary path, floodlit via a valuable learning interlude with Jacques Nicolet’s Le Mans-based Onroak Automotive organisation, parent of the Ligier sportscar marque.
“I’ve done it a few times before, but bringing a brand-new concept to the market from scratch in 12 months was a challenge,” he adds. “Everything about the process [its gestation] was so different, using state-of-the-art materials. Many people thought that producing a carbonfibre car for under £100k [plus VAT] couldn’t be done, so today is very special. And quite a relief!
“The Radical SR3, of which we sold more than 1200, was a brilliant car 15 years ago and is still a great piece of kit. But, as with [the evolution of high-performance] road cars, the marketplace has changed. If you are gearing up to sell a new racing car for the next five years it’s got to be very different.”
The technology behind producing the first vacuum-infused carbonfibre tub with German composite pioneer Dominik Dierkes’s Dd-compound company is constantly pushing the boundaries of manufacturing capability. Dierkes introduced himself when Abbott was still running Radical. Dd-compound’s patented methods of moulding super-strong and complex structures economically are having a transformative effect in the aviation, boating and mainstream automotive fields. Adaptable and affordable, they are ideal for relatively low-volume markets.
“Now I realise that this was the key to something I’d been looking at for about five years,” says Abbott. “There had to be a better way of doing a production racing car, moving away from old-school tubeframe chassis. Once I saw DD’S process I was sold on it. While I was ‘captive’ [at Radical] we couldn’t put our heads above the parapet, though. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a maverick, so the timing was right to start again, go for it.”
The catalyst for the Revolution wasn’t purely the possibilities opened by new materials: “We turned it round, starting with the customer experience. What do they want and what are they prepared to pay for that? Then we set about finding the technology – and crucially the right people to work with it – to match and hopefully exceed those expectations.”
The result is also very distinctive. “Simon Cox did a wonderful job with the styling. He’s a real artist,” says Abbott.
Formerly head of design at Infiniti, Cox also has the Chevrolet Corvette C7 and Cadillac Cien on his CV. His landmark Isuzu Vehi-cross concept presaged the SUV by over a decade. He now lectures to a new generation of designers at Coventry University.
“I GUESS I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A BIT OF A MAVERICK, SO THE TIMING WAS RIGHT TO START AGAIN”
The monocoque is the work of Pete Watts. A mechanicalengineering graduate who joined the renowned Advanced Composites in Derby in 1983, as carbonfibre’s motorsport influence boomed, he rose to be head of composites at the BAR Formula 1 team, then consulted with Bentley, Mclaren and other marques. One crucial difference in this car was that it had to accommodate larger drivers than the pint-sized professionals in LMP1’S orbit.
Driver safety is king among design criteria and the
Revolution’s ROPS [roll over protection system] has achieved FIA Free Formula Article 227 certification.
Also packaged within Cox’s envelope, reworked for practicality and productionisation, is Ford’s compact Us-sourced 3.7-litre Ford V6 ‘crate engine’, which develops 305bhp in standard form and should run 100 hours or 10,000 miles between rebuilds. Mounted longitudinally, the dry-sumped unit is mated to a six-speed sequential transaxle by French company 3MO – the WRC specialist also chosen to supply the gearboxes for the widely hailed retro-style Alpine Renault A110 road car.
Jack Shaw, who worked with Simon Carrier (previously with Reynard and M-sport) at Toyota Gazoo Racing, was engaged on detail design with Watts. Veteran Lotus suspension guru Richard Hurdwell – rooted, like Abbott, in the 750 Motor Club, where he won the 1978 F1300 championship in the self-built Wells
Two car – masterminded the suspension layout, aiming for a baseline set-up to open the Revolution’s performance envelope to a wide range of drivers.
The distinctive and fine-tuneable aero package is the result of a collaboration with Totalsim, the Brackley-based computational fluid dynamics (CFD) consultancy set up by Dr Rob Lewis in 2007.
“Rob’s a top, top, guy,” says Abbott. “The work his team has done over the course of hundreds of ‘runs’ is exceptional. The Revolution’s 3:1 lift-over-drag ratio is not massive by [LM]P2 standards, but for a club car is huge.”
Viewed from trackside, James Abbott’s initial shakedown runs in the prototype at Snetterton demonstrated the chassis’s poise and flat attitude through the 300 Circuit’s wide range of corners, and its high-speed stability. While running in components and performing systems checks, straight out of the box the Revolution topped 150mph on the Bentley Straight without exiting the preceding Williams corner at racing speeds.
“After testing CN cars the first things that struck me on leaving the pit garage was how smooth it was with no vibration through the chassis,” says Abbott Jr. “We had a couple of minor teething problems, to be expected with a brand-new car out of the box [the engine and transmission had run on a rolling road], but I’m really encouraged.”
While the car’s bodywork has yet to be finished – missing at Snetterton were the fairings behind the rollhoop shroud, wing
endplates mounted on the rear wheelarches and the front splitter cover – these will be added and the practicalities of detaching the engine cover addressed when the production panels are made.
“Working hand in hand with DD we can respond quickly to these things,” says Abbott Sr. “Making production patterns is now so much simpler than the old labour-intensive methods in the days of fibreglass.”
Building the cars will not be done conventionally either. Construction is being outsourced to trusted teams with whom Abbott Sr has built long relationships and who share his ambitions. The first is Rob Wheldon’s RAW Motorsport concern, which completed the prototype in the days running up to the unveiling, following a change from the original plan to run it secretly at the Papenburg proving ground in Germany the previous week.
“I’ve known Rob for a very long time, since I sponsored him in karting,” says Abbott. “He coached James and managed the factory Radical team before setting up on his own. Rob was really excited about the project and wanted to go on to the next level, so it [engaging RAW] was a natural fit. Derek
White and Rich Webb [whom Abbott supported in motorcycle racing] are centrally involved there too.”
Indeed, for a young company aiming to go places fast, Revolution Race Cars already has a strong family feel, since Radical France’s Romain Rousseau, for whom customer focus is an obsession, is on board too. And with Roger Green (another old Radical hand) working on its PR strategy and James Bailey-organised twin racing series to bring the product to British and European circuits next season (see panel), a fascinating new era of affordable highperformance sportscar racing is on the horizon.
Although it officially launches across media platforms tomorrow (Friday), interest is already running high. As the car hit the track for the first time, seven deposits had been taken, with several more in the pipeline. “Our plan is to have two or three cars running by the end of November, when we can start customer testing,” says Abbott. “Realistically January’s build is sold, but we’re aiming to have 20 ready by the start of next season.”
Is the Revolution a game-changer? Time will tell, but the initial impressions are that it fits a niche that Phil Abbott identified between the uber-successful Radical SR3 he pioneered and the high-downforce LMP3 sports-racers aimed at pro drivers on the global stage. With heavy focus on LMP3 and its incredibly physical big sister P2, Onroak was committed to its Ligier brand, which is why Abbott boldly started again.
The result is a grown-up product offering extraordinary performance at a low price point. At £89,000+VAT for a carbon car with low running costs and a ready-made racing series from year one, surely its future is bright… Vive la Revolution!
CFD image from Totalsims
Ford-sourced V6 makes 305bhp and should run 10,000 miles between rebuilds