Former McLaren designer's handiwork won't make it go any faster – but the race-winning R1 doesn't need the help
By Matt Bird / Thursday, 6 October 2022 / Loading comments
We all dream of buying a racing car, don’t we? Living out all our fantasies of winning races, spraying the champagne, and basking in the glory of podium-based success. However, unless you’re willing to embark on something like an EnduroKa season, the cost of actually campaigning a racing car is going to get really, really high. But, of course, we all want a fast racing car as well. Keep it light and the power goes further, while also meaning the cost of consumables – fuel, tyres and so on – won’t be quite as prohibitive. What you need, really, is something even lighter than a Ka with in the region of six times the power…
Those with good memories might recall PH drove a Praga R1 many moons ago, though a road drive was never going to tell the full story. Fortunately, its track potential was realised soon after, which eventually became total domination – seven wins from nine races – of the 2020 Britcar championship. The Praga was so far ahead of anything else that the R1s were given their own class to compete in for 2021, and this year has seen the inaugural season of the Praga Cup take place on circuits across the UK. The little track car named after the Czech capital, weighing less than 650kg and with more than 350hp from a Formula Renault engine, is making a name for itself in the world of British club racing.
In fact, lessons learnt from that 2020 Britcar season helped inform the changes for the updated Praga R1, of which this is one. Every single carbon panel was new, with less weight, more downforce and reduced drag claimed – the holy trinity for race performance. The new look was even more extraordinary, too, part-superbike and part-prototype racer. Even the PH comments liked it, so the Praga must have been good. The R1’s endurance credentials were further improved with a larger fuel tank and better lights, almost like it was specifically designed for dark and dank British racing…
This one is extra special for a couple of reasons. First is the livery, which was designed by Frank Stephenson – he even signed it to make sure you don’t forget. Second thing to note is that this R1 was the Festival of Speed car from 2021, taken to a very decent sixth place in the shootout with Ales Jirasek behind the wheel. It still has the Goodwood sticker behind the door, along with its race number from a year in the Praga Cup.
Presumably, a 2023 season will be on the cars for whoever buys this one next, given the championship continues to gather momentum. And to be frank, you’ve got to wonder what other series a car this fast might be eligible for. The other option would be as the track toy to end all track toys; back when the 2021 overhaul was launched, Praga reckoned the R1 could be set up and maintained by just one mechanic. Which might well be the owner, if skilled enough. Certainly, it’s small and light enough to be towed anywhere, and there’s not likely to be another Praga in the paddock if that’s the route you take.
More than likely though, it will remain a racer, with those changes incorporated to last year’s car hopefully keeping it relatively low maintenance (and low cost). Relative is the key word there, however, as buying a fairly new, all-carbon race car is not cheap in the first instance. This one is for sale at £139,995, which appears to be the ballpark for any kind of Praga – the road-going one was £150k back in 2015. There’s no premium for this car’s unique provenance, at least. And while this sort of money will always buy a more traditional racer from one of the better-known manufacturers, they’re surely not going to be as fast as this – or star in their own Festival of Speed video…
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