UK: Clark sets the pace at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of fierce battles in Challenge, Bell crowned champion

UK: Clark sets the pace at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of fierce battles in Challenge, Bell crowned champion

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The UK’s Radical Challenge Championship made its highly anticipated return to Spa-Francorchamps for the season finale of its 2021 season over the weekend of October 16-17, with examples of the entire model range taking to the famous Belgian circuit. After the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic and then re-scheduled from its June 2021 date due to ongoing travel restrictions, anticipation was high with drivers from across the UK, Europe, the United States, and Australia.

After an available three days of testing during the week prior and 90 minutes of free practice on Saturday morning, it was the Classic and Speed Radical SR8 of Andre Bruckmann and two-times Porsche Mobil1 Supercup world champion Larry ten Voorde who set the pace with a 2.18.324 lap on his first ever drive in the car, with two seconds in hand over the Valour Racing prepared Radical RXC Spyder of Michael Clark.

Speaking of his first experience behind the wheel of a Radical, the 2020 and 2021 Supercup world champion said, “It was a great weekend! Driving the Radical SR8 on the limit reminded me of my early years in karting – no power steering and a lot of grip around that famous Spa track. Thanks to Andre Bruckmann, Classic & Speed and Radical for welcoming me as part of the weekend.”      

Californian Gregg Gorski headed the second row in the new Radical Works Team run SR10, revelling in his first time racing in Europe, with RAW Motorsport’s Chris Short alongside, quickest of the SR3s. Long-time Radical Cup North America competitor and Radical stalwart Jim Booth was back from the US and started sixth in his Valour Racing Radical SR8, with the Radical SR3s of Jason Rishover, Jacek Zielonka, Elliot Goodman and Chris Preen rounding out the top 10.  

A noted absence from the entry list was Raw Motorsport’s Matt Bell, who finished the previous round at Donington Park GP with a sufficient points buffer to claim the 2021 Radical Challenge title a round early. His chief season rival, 360 Racing’s Jerome de Sadeleer, also made the same call.

Saturday’s opening race was firmly in Clark’s hands from the opening lap, with Bruckmann, Gorski and Booth using their Masters class power advantages to settle in the top four over the opening lap.

Rishover was fifth and first of the SR3s, after Short was sent out wide after a tap from Preen, “it sent me right across the track and I think I rejoined about fifth in class,” he said.

Gorski was an early retirement after a spin and light contact with the wall, which moved Bruckmann and Booth up accordingly. Elliot Goodman was up to fifth overall, but being caught by the recovering Short, and Preen found himself on the slide to 13th.

A brief safety car intervention closed things up again, but Clark was still victorious by 7.811 seconds from Bruckmann at the flag.

Rishover’s advantage had been wiped out and he had a fight over the closing laps, defending from Short. “I made a mistake at La Source and Chris was right on me. We came out of the Hairpin with me just a nose ahead and I just held him off into Eau Rouge,” Rishover explained.

“I had a good battle with Elliot and then caught Jason near the end. We went into Eau Rouge almost side by side, but I backed out as he defended well,” Short replied.

Goodman dropped to sixth in the closing laps, which gave SR3 debutant Andy Lowe a class podium.

Come Sunday morning the temperature was barely above freezing for the second race, but it was Clark to the fore again with a win over Gorski by a massive 33 seconds.

It was the SR3s that provided the real racing, as Rishover and Short recommenced their duel from the earlier race.

“Although I was class pole, Jason got me into La Source on the opening lap, but I took it back at the same place a lap later,” Short explained.

“Chris and I were well ahead of the rest, so we were able to settle and have a race together. He seemed to have the edge over me on this occasion though,” Rishover admitted.

Although Rishover was fourth on the road, just behind Short, a sizeable track limits penalty was added, dropping him to fifth behind Preen, with Ben Stone rounding off the top six. “After three years of trying I finally got my win,” Short added.

The final race of the weekend and of the season was the usual 45-minute pitstop race.

A large proportion of the race was behind the safety car after Zielonka crashed heavily at Raidillon on the opening lap, thankfully emerging from the shunt without injury.

Clark led Gorski, Short, Preen, Rishover and Stone as they followed the safety car until going live again for lap seven.

“From the restart I was under pressure from Preen and Rishover, but found some sand down on the track from an earlier incident and I slid on it. Both of them went by and was chasing again,” Short explained.

Clark had made his stop after one lap of the restart, leaving Gorski in front until he pitted two laps later.

At the flag it was another big win for Clark over Gorski, before Preen came home in third, a further 28 seconds back and taking his first Radical Challenge victory.

Stone was fourth on the road, but his track limit penalty dropped him to fifth behind Booth, but still good enough for second in class, while Peter Tyler was classified third in class from sixth overall after Dean Warriner and Short were on the receiving end of a raft of track limits penalties.

“I had decided to pit early, then got held up on rejoining, so had no chance of catching up again,” said Short.

Rishover had a similar problem, “the success penalty and the safety car just didn’t leave me enough time to challenge again,” he added after taking the flag 12th overall, promoted to sixth in class when both Elliot Goodman and Shot earned more Track Limit penalties.

Bell was confirmed the 2021 Radical Challenge Champion, making it a double for Rob Wheldon and his RAW crew, having already won the Radical SR1 Cup with James Lay.

Spa-Francorchamps marks the end of the UK’s 2021 Radical season, but there is another chance to get back on track with Radical at the non-championship event at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve Portimaó over the weekend of December 4-5, which will provide extensive testing, track day and racing opportunities in a relaxed Radical-only format.

Radical Sportscars has also released a provisional 2022 calendar (which is subject to change), which is specially designed to avoid date clashes with the European Le Mans Series, Le Mans Cup and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, helping Radical teams who are on the road to Le Mans.

Provisional Race Calendar for 2022

Round 1: 9-10 April, Donington Park National  

Round 2: 21-22 May, Brands Hatch GP

Round 3: 25-26 June, Snetterton 300

Round 4: 30-31 July, Silverstone GP (combined Radical Challenge and SR1 Cup grid)

Round 5: 14 August, Oulton Park International

Round 6: 17-18 September, Donington Park GP

Round 7: TBC, World Championship round – Special Event