Martinek links Praga’s successful investment in karting to the revival in car production. “There were some very capable individuals working on kit cars in Slovakia, and Praga started from the ground up with these people,” he says. “The first product was the R4S, a sort of GT car that was very fast and aerodynamically efficient, but the Achilles’ heel was the Praga-developed engine. Reliability wasn’t great. Only a small run was made and the costs of engine development were substantial.
“But it was competitive. Beitske Visser [now a winner in the female-only W Series for Formula 3 cars] raced karts and won for Praga so was given a race debut in the R4S in the Dutch Supercar Challenge. She was 16 at the time, and she won first time out.”
The R1 followed in 2013, intended initially as a means of transition for those stepping from karts into cars. Powered by the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine used in the popular Formula Renault single-seater category, it has since been heavily developed by Praga, resulting in the potent 380bhp turbocharged unit that propels the R1T. “This is its third evolution,” says Martinek, “and we’ve made progress with the power curve, its usability and reliability. It’s fine-tuned and great to drive.”
How new is the R1T?
Beyond the engine development, “it’s basically a new car”, reckons Martinek of the 2021 evolution. Improved safety and aerodynamics are core themes, courtesy of a bolstered carbonfibre tub that includes LMP3-style Zylon panels plus computer- and wind tunnel-aided design refinements that weren’t available to Praga when the original R1 was conceived.
“It started as a fairly basic car eight years ago, and we’re still trying to keep it simple,” says Martinek, “but it’s much more sophisticated now. For example, the electronics are now fully programmable and the engine management means it feels normally aspirated.”