After a season of dominance that sealed the Performance Direct
Radical SR3 Challenge at the first attempt along with the Sunoco
Daytona Challenge, Bradley Smith's attentions are well and truly on
his prize from the latter: a seat in a Daytona Prototype in the
Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
The Essex racer has shot to prominence as one of the outstanding
young talents in UK club motorsport, collecting a BRDC Rising Star
after following up his 2012 Radical Clubman's Cup title with the
next-step SR3 Challenge in 2013. He's already been to the Daytona
Speedway for an early test, and he underlined his credentials by
setting the third-fastest time.
"It was fantastic." Smith beamed. "We tested with a team called
Action Express who are a very experienced team. They'd done
everything to make us feel welcome and obviously made sure I was
prepared for when I got into the car. We spent the first day
visiting the circuit itself, having a little tour round and just
understanding how they do it really because it's the actual scale
of the circuit itself. It's just humongous and a lot to take
"It's a weird feeling when you get up on it [the banking] as it
pushes you down and across [but] once you get used to it it's
actually fairly easy, though you've got to keep your wits about you
when you're going past GT cars. The infield is the tricky bit
because it's quite narrow and a lot of it is getting past those GT
cars safely. You have to really think about where you can overtake
and where it's going to cost you the least amount of time."
His lap was impressive enough to place him higher than some
vastly-experienced Grand-Am racers, drivers who will no doubt be
the stars when the series re-launches as the Tudor United Sportscar
Championship at Daytona in January.
"The two faster cars were 2014 spec and they run a bigger rear
wing and have a diffuser on the rear which is ridiculously big, and
they're given more power. We were supposed to be three seconds a
lap slower but we were only 2.5 so that's gone quite well. We beat
the time the driver coach that day Christian Fittipaldi did which
is always a bonus, I'm sure if he'd have gone out in the afternoon
he'd have beaten it but it's good to compare yourself against guys
like that. And seeing my helmet next to someone like Sebastian
Bourdais or someone is a bit different to rocking up to Snetterton
on a cold and wet test day."
Despite Smith's very real aspirations to earn his keep as racing
driver, he isn't allowing the prospect of potential suitors to get
in the way of him enjoying himself while he's across the Atlantic.
He's had some surprise good news before he returns to America in
the new year.
"It was a lot to take in and I've still got a lot to learn out
there with the extra testing we've got coming up. We've got the
pre-test at the Roar which is in January but we've also been
invited out by a different team to test on Tuesday and Wednesday."
"I think we made a good impression. If something comes off with
it with regards to next year then great but we've got to go out
there and enjoy it. That's the main thing and most important part:
to enjoy your racing. That's what we're going to do and if anything
else comes from it then that's a bonus."
His family-run team, Mectech Motorsport, recently tested a
McLaren MP4/12C GT3 in their search for a 2014 project, eyeing a
move into British GT. But, with the American opportunity
potentially opening new doors, his options are open, especially
with so many talented drivers going for so few seats on these
"Next year is going to be quite hard because you've got quite a
few single seater guys coming across with money. Where the amateur
drivers used to pay for a driver to be there, now the Pro class
drivers are bringing their own money in. It's becoming a little bit
like the single seater thing of finding the money whereas in
America it's the team's job to find the sponsorship and
then they hire a good driver. It works a lot differently
out there so if we could make something of that then that would be
"There are definitely opportunities and if you make a good
impression it's a lot easier out there. Over here it's really tough
at the moment. I know quite a few people who haven't got drives
next year in British GT purely because the amateur has had a better
deal from someone. Regardless whether they can win the championship
they're looking at it and thinking 'Hang on a minute, I can save
£100k here.' It's difficult.
"I'd like to do some racing in the UK but if something came up
in America you're not exactly going to say no, are you?"
The creation of new LPM3 rules may open new avenues for Mectech
and their Radical Sportscars experience, especially with the
protégés already queuing up on their production line. Lewis Plato
will be next, and he has an American trip of his own coming up in a
left-hand drive Camaro in the Grand Am 200 ("You have to
heel-and-toe which he's never done, and the gear sticks on the
other side. I'm expecting him to open the door halfway down the
straights!" Smith laughed).
Smith let slip that Mectech are already close to confirming some
of their Clubman's Cup line-up, but while he was coy on exactly
who, he was clearly excited by what's in store. With development of
their own kart in the works and three young chargers learning their
trade under Smith's tutelage, he is hoping to follow ART's lead in
terms of creating a driver ladder.
The team atmosphere, and the team itself are obviously important
to the grounded Smith, important enough for him to put that first.
They "can't afford to just drop what we've done. It's got a lot of
success in the Radicals", according to Smith
"We want to run as efficiently as we can to get the results; we
go to win but we have a fantastic team spirit and a fantastic
atmosphere in our awning. That's one thing people tend to forget:
we want our customers to enjoy it. At the same time, we want them
to win it because it's our name on the side of it. It's finding
that balance between pushing them hard enough and obviously
enjoying it. But it's more fun to win.
"We'll push on next year and hopefully Mectech can push on for
bigger and better things to whatever I'm going in. I think the team
has got to be the important thing because we've put a lot of effort
into that and we can't drop that for me to live the dream
"I'm going to stay realistic but at the same time make the most
Bradley Smith has one seat guaranteed next year in the Radical
Masters Euroseries, given to him as part of his championship win,
and he's expecting to partner Plato in the returning Radical
Feature Races 2014. First though, he'll be making his Daytona
bow on 26 January.
Find out more about Radical Sportscars here.
Photos courtesy of