The 2014 Radical Cup USA has started with a bang, literally. A series of first corner crashes added to the action during the exciting opening rounds at Miller Motorsport Park, Utah (March 21-23) resulting in three different SR8 race winners and John Falb taking a clean sweep in the SR3 class.
Yet the strong competition isn’t particularly surprising. At the end of the year Radical Cup’s three class champions will each be rewarded with a race in the UK with the factory Radical team. Furthermore the series, which is equally aimed at gentleman drivers and the sport’s future stars, offers the additional carrot of a test in a Le Mans LMP2 car for the outright champion.
Reigning SR8 champion Gerhard Watzinger got off to a perfect start, winning Saturday’s Round 1 race after qualifying on pole position. However third placed Ryan Carpenter prevented Watzinger from gaining perfect points, taking the bonus point for fastest lap of the race, a 1:51.150.
A strong start from Dave Tweedlie saw him move from fourth to second. He was then passed by Carpenter as a lengthy caution period commenced after a spin by George Scott left SR3 drivers Bruce Jones and Todd Slusher with no where to go. All three were eliminated in what would be the first of a number of first corner incidents throughout the weekend.
Acknowledging his mistake Carpenter immediately conceded second place, and upon the restart Tweedlie briefly took the lead before Watzinger masterfully found his way back through for the win. After impressively qualifying second on the grid, Jesse Menczer fell back down the order to finish fifth, behind Danyel Torres.
John Falb won the SR3 class. He also received bonus points for qualifying on pole and recording the fastest race lap, a 1:53.790. George Kurtz finished second, while Radical Cup Australia star Nick Kelly impressed in his series debut by finishing third. Mark Allan and John Thompson completed the top five.
John Falb’s run continued in Round 2 as he again qualified on the SR3 pole before setting the fastest lap of the race, a 1:51.841, and taking the class win.
Watzinger wasn’t so lucky. Jesse Menczer collided with the Round 1 SR8 winner, ending the race for both drivers. Randy Carpenter also spun trying to avoid the incident, but continued.
In a repeat of the first race the safety car was again sent out on the opening lap. Upon the restart Jay Torres was also caught out by turn 1 and, with his car stranded, the track returned to full course caution.
With the third green flag an epic battle for the final step of the podium developed between Mark Allan and Nick Kelly. With neither driver giving an inch the pair tangled, spearing Kelly back across the track into an innocent Bruce Jones, who was sent careering into the guardrail.
The incident promoted Todd Slusher to fifth and Gary Torres to fourth, while Allan finished third behind second placed Kurtz and SR3 winner Falb.
Ryan Carpenter converted his pole position into the SR8 win and a perfect score, taking the fastest race lap of 1:49.899. He won in front of Jim Booth and his father Randy Carpenter. Peter Strasser was fourth in SR8, while Gerhard Watzinger was classified finishing fifth.
Radical Cup employed its new reverse grid format for Round 3 with great success. Jesse Menczer made amends and elevated himself to star status by taking the SR8 win. He also impressively set a new track lap record of 1:49.826, eclipsing Watzinger’s 2013 record by a staggering two seconds.
Carpenter took a strong fight to Menczer early in the race and finished second. Jim Booth completed the SR8 podium, while Strasser finished fourth.
Watzinger’s hopes of a strong result were crushed with a pitstop to fix issues relating to the damage from Round 2. He was classified finishing fifth.
Falb again took command of the SR3 field and the win, but not before eventual second place finisher Todd Slusher fended him off for a number of laps. Mark Allan tried everything to steal third away from Kurtz, but to no avail. Jay Torres finished fifth.
The series now heads to Road Atlanta for the Whelen Grand Prix of Georgia, April 11-13, where it is expected a number of the new road-going Radical RXC Coupes will make their Radical Cup debut.
The North American Road Racing Association event will also feature the US GT Championship, Whelen US TimeTrial Championship, as well as the SCCA Pro Atlantic, F2000 and Formula F1600 open wheel championships.