Favorite Videos Of 2016: 180 hp Vs. 430 hp

By Tom Martin

December 28, 2016

It never ceases to surprise people how very different cars with very different power levels can run similar lap times. When we were at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this year, we noticed that the 155 hp Global MX-5 Cup cars could run laps only 3 sec (3%) slower than the Continental GS class cars which include the 526 hp Shelby GT350R-C with pro drivers. Of course, handling and tires and aero and circuit layout all matter in such comparisons, as does driver skill. Still, it is interesting how often observers predict power is a big factor and yet it doesn’t turn out to be as important as they predict.  

This video shows such a comparison, with a 180 whp Radical SR3 running against a 430 whp TA2 Camaro. The video is from a practice session, so the Radical doesn’t force the issue, but as you might expect, the Radical is faster in the turns and the Camaro is faster on the straights. Normally, we think slow corner/fast straight cars are harder to pass, but you also have to factor in visibility and ease of car placement where a small, open car like the Radical has real advantages. The other factor in racing is braking, and light aero cars like the SR3 can often recover an amazing amount of what they lose under acceleration when the next corner comes up. At this NASA event at MSR Houston, when it was all added up, the Radical ran slightly lower lap times in qualifying and racing.