Shane Stoney stands on the brink of securing the 2019 Radical SR1 Cup championship title at Donington Park this Saturday, with only an absolute disaster of a day standing between him and the laurels.
Stoney carries a vast 122-point advantage into the penultimate round of the year, meaning he only needs to extend his lead marginally in the first outing to put the title beyond doubt ahead of the final round at Snetterton in October. It’s been a stunning season for Stoney, who has won seven of the eight rounds so far, and has secured pole position in all of them, having adapted his driving to get the best from his Quattro Motorsport-run 182bhp RPE-Suzuki-engined SR1.
“It’s been a dream season – way beyond my expectations at the start of the year,” says Stoney. “I’ve done the maths and if I can extend the lead by two points we can get the job done in race one, so that’s got to be the aim. At the start of the year we worked hard on refining the setup of the car, and I made a lot of improvements in my driving – such as switching to left-foot braking, which I felt gives an advantage in this sort of racing, and it all seems to have come together nicely. I’ll approach the weekend like any other – aiming for pole, and the win.”
Stoney may have to hit reset though, having had his last Radical outing at the wheel of a more powerful SR3 during the Radical Challenge round at Brands Hatch.
“Everything is just that bit more in the SR3, so it probably won’t help me jumping back to the SR1 after experiencing that,” he adds. “The extra downforce, power and sheer speed of the SR3 is amazing. So are the brakes. The SR1 prepares you so well for the step up the Radical racing ladder, but stepping back down for this weekend could be a bit of a culture shock.”
While the main title fight is very nearly out of sight, there’s a fantastic battle going on just behind the runaway leader, with none of the next three drivers secure in their positions.
Chris Short (Works) sits second in the championship, courtesy of four podium appearances this term. Short is still chasing his maiden victory in the championship and, approaching the end of his second season, will be keen to break Stoney’s stranglehold sooner rather than later.
Short’s rival for last year’s Rookie Cup, Will Hunt (Scorpio Motorsport), is pushing him all the way for second overall. Hunt matches Short’s tally of four rostrum appearances so far and is only four points adrift after a costly non-finish last time out at Snetterton set him back.
Fourth-placed Julian Lay is a driver of distinction, having been the only man to deny Stoney the top step, triumphing in mixed-conditions at Brands Hatch as Stoney went the wrong way on setup. With only eight points between him and Short in second, the fight for runner-up spot is balanced on a knife-edge.
Matt Jones has been an ever-present threat to the podium and scored his first top-three finish at Cadwell Park in May. He’ll be keen to add more silverware before the year is out.
A fresh addition to the grid will be racing returnee Andy Lowe, who will end a 15-year sabbatical from the sport to get back out at the wheel of an SR1. He counts Short as a business colleague, and it was that relationship that led to him committing to a fresh SR1 for the remainder of this year and beyond. He will run with the Works team initially, before forming his own squad to field the car.
“I started racing about 15 years ago in BRDC Formula Ford at the Silverstone Racing School, but it never really worked out back then,” says Lowe. “I bumped into Chris recently at a business meeting and he was full of praise for the Radicals, so that peaked my interest initially. I turned 50 this year and I’d booked an experience to drive a Formula 1 car and got chatting to a few of the chaps there and turned out one of them raced an SR3 and loved it. I contacted Radical for a test, which we did at Donington Park a few weeks ago, and signed up to buy a car. The idea is to learn for the rest of this year and then do the full championship next year.
“I have no idea where I’ll be, but I know the SR1 was brilliant to drive. It was fast and actually a lot easier to drive than I thought, and I quite like how it moves around underneath you.”
Aside from the main fight, things couldn’t be tighter in the class battles either. In the Fangio Trophy contest – for drivers aged 40 and over – Lay holds sway over Short by a single point, with Jones just one further behind. There’s little room for error in the intra-class battle between the three with only four races left this season.
Mark Tranter tops the Rookie Cup order after a terrific start to the campaign, which included four wins on the bounce. However, in recent races he’s slipped behind newcomer Sam Ashworth, who has been unbeaten since joining the SR1 field two rounds ago.
Add in the tight midfield of former BMW racer Ross Elliott (Avidity Motorsport), ex-Lotus man Dean Warriner (Track Focused) – both of whom have been podium finishers this year – Paul Clark (360 Racing), Simon Bailey (Track Focused) and Mark Williams (Works) and there’s plenty to enjoy as one of the UK’s fastest single-make series heads toward its conclusion.
Action for the penultimate round of the 2019 SR1 Cup staged at Donington Park on Saturday, 21 September, begins with qualifying at 09:30, followed by two 20-minute races at 12:10 and 15:35. Live timing is available at Tsl-timing.com