Builds>> Bergenholtz Turbo 3-rotor Mazda Rx8

For some reason, people have a tendency to underestimate Bergenholtz Racing. That’s a mistake. Big mistake. Bergenholtz Racing was the most successful privateer drag racing team in the NHRA Sport Compact Series, using unrelenting determination and ingenuity to clown the big dollar budget of GM over and over and over again. Don’t believe it? There’s a display case full of Wallies (the coveted NHRA Wally Parks trophy) at Ron Bergenholtz’s Orange County home to prove it.

Ron B and the crew continue their quest for greatness with the build of this Mazda RX8, which will be momentum-bringing future superstar Justin Pawlak’s ride for the 2009 Formula D season. People better keep their eyes on Justin. He has just the right combination of driving skill, hunger, determination, and down-to-earth attitude to make him an extremely popular star in the world of drifting. Justin has great car style personally; his FC3S RX7 and FC3S drift truck have been seen on Speedhunters before, and there’s no doubt they will appear in many more magazines and websites in the future. The best part? Justin is striving for success, but he isn’t trying to become some Nascar driver or action sports hero – Justin is well grounded, staying true to his love of drifting culture and his friends who have supported him from day one. This is absolutely the recipe for success and authenticity in this sport, which is already plagued by outsiders and fakers trying to capitalize on the commercial aspects of drifting’s popularity. But Justin isn’t one of those guys. With an expert race team manager/crew chief like Ron Bergenholtz on board, he’s bound for success. I said it before when I was interviewed for an issue of PASmag, and I’ll say it again. Justin Pawlak is going to be big. Real big.

As big as that ridiculously huge Mishimoto radiator in the front bumper.

Enough about the guys for now. Let’s talk about the car they’re building. Ron and the crew at Steen Chassis hand customized this aluminum drop vent hood to cool off the humongous intercooler. Ron mentioned that he wanted to use a huge radiator, a huge intercooler, and a very big turbo, but it was sort of difficult trying to mount it all in the extremely tight-fitting engine bay of the RX8. Of course, being an extremely creative fabricator, he was able to customize everything to make it work.

I honestly have never seen an RX8 that has this much thought put into it. In fact, it’s probably the best RX8 build I’ve seen thus far, including other professionally built RX8s in the USA and Japan. Ron and the Steen Chassis crew spent a lot of time engineering the suspension geometry; all the suspension pieces are adjustable, and just look how much steering angle they were able to achieve! As you can tell from the photo, Ron and Justin are using some specially made coilovers from KW Suspensions, which were engineered Germany specifically for their setup, and flown in just for their car. This coilover setup isn’t the standard Variant 3 that you can buy off the shelf, it’s a specially concocted setup just for Bergenholtz Racing.

Even though you can’t see them in this particular photo, the wheels that this RX8 will sport this season are by 5Axis Design, which is known for building impressive Lexus and Scion demo vehicles. They also have a line of 5AD wheels, which have a unique look to them, but would sell more quickly if only they would consult with me before finalizing the sizes and offsets. (Don’t you love how I managed to fit something about wheel offset in this story, which has nothing to do with wheels?)

The Seibon fiberglass door that’s sitting on the ground is quickly removable. I asked Justin how they come off, and he pulled the whole door off in less than a minute. I just hope they stay on there well enough when he’s drifting at about 90+ mph.

The super beefy rollcage was welded to SCCA-specs at Steen Chassis in Signal Hill, which is a lot more stout in diameter than what the Formula D specs call for. Of course, this means the cage is also heavier, but it’s stronger, which is a good thing since the doors are made of fiberglass and since this is a dual purpose car – it can be used for drifting and time attack, with just minor tweaks to the settings of the car.

A trained eye will notice the sequential transmission and the dry sump reservoir sitting by the passenger kickpanel. Notice the crossbar on the rollcage roof? Most Formula D cars don’t have this. See the chrome wink mirror attached up there, per request of Justin? The vatos all over East LA will be jealous of Justin’s fully chromed out wink mirror. They’ll be hitting him up, like “Hey homie, where’d you get that mirror, eh? Casper and Hector over there like your chrome, carnal!”

Who needs airbags? The brake and clutch master cylinders have been replaced with Tilton units, and mounted where you might normally find airbags. Since Ron B had to really make his dollars stretch when building this car, I think he might have had to sell the airbags and the catalytic converter to pay for some race parts. (Just kidding! …or am I?) Everyone thinks they’re a high budget race team, but they’re not. They’re just a budget baller, high ingenuity race team.

The fiberglass airbag cover on the dashboard was made by FC3S driver Kyle Mohan, who is also running an RX8 this year. Kyle was nice enough to let Bergenholtz Racing borrow his original piece so Ron could make a knockoff of it and use it on his own car. I’m sure others will want to buy that piece for their RX8s too. Some will want to mount gauges there, some will want to use it as an access panel like Ron did, and others will want to stick a DVD player and 12 inch subwoofer in there for their “showcar” RX8s. Brilliant.

We’ve all seen APR wings before, but notice the streamlined tubing that Ron and the Steen crew used for mounting the APR rear wing. Those bars are not only strong, but they are also aerodynamic, and they’re welded all the way down to the chassis, so their wing will work much better for creating downforce and traction than a wing that’s just bolted to the fiberglass rear trunk lid. Keep in mind that most Formula D and D1 cars use wings that are only bolted to the trunk lid.

Oh, and remember when the Bergenholtz brothers came up with the wheelie bar idea on their FWD drag cars in the late 90s? When they first came out with the wheelie bars, all the traditional American domestic V8 guys and import guys alike laughed at them. Until they realized that the wheelie bars actually did work, and they actually did provide more grip for the front wheels.

Well, the Bergenholtz brothers have come up with something else for drifting now… no, it’s not a wheelie bar. You’ll just have to wait for Formula D Long Beach to find out what it is. Either way, I just gotta say, it never ceases to amaze me, how innovative these guys are.

Long Beach, here we come!

-Antonio Alvendia



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

i hope its not roller-blade wheels..


I'm stumped as to what their new tool is can't wait to find out, btw Antonio you could probably find a way to talk about offsets anytime lol


dope write up antonio..i'm glad the public finally gets to see samples of this stout machine..Bergenholtz Racing/Steen Chassis/JTP did an excellcent job put everything together..i can't wait til the black blanket gets to be removed..but is eveyone at Formula D Long Beach gonna be ready for it???


booooooo!!! cars like this are ruining drifting in the us.


I love these guys, I've been big fans since I was 17 almost 9 years ago. I have still yet to meet them in person, something I plan on doing.


I'm sure their drifting innovation won't be as big as rollerskate wheels on the bumper... Which is GANGSTA (scandinavian-style) ^__^

The car is looking pretty crazy though. Nice converage Antonio, though it needed more sauce!! Now i wanna know more about it!!


Holy angle batman!

I look forward to seeing this car in the flesh and taking a peek under the skirts.


Cant wait to see it finished!!


Bergenholtz > Rhys


what's with all the drag teams jumping on the drift bandwagon??


i think having that much steering angle is illegal in most states. i wonder how long it will take for other teams to protest THIS car's front suspension. either way, i can't wait to see it kick some mopar butt!


SICK!good luck to Justin and the team!


Aww, you tease us with new drifting tech and then don't put out. Lame.


Build looks good. I see G Force transmissions are becoming the standard in drifting.


Justin, Is this turbo better than the Borg Warner turbo?


that is a sweet build. I am really impressed with the work on the car and the ingenuity behind some of the trick things they have on the car...Justin should be a top contender this year if the car is reliable and gets plenty of set up time before the season opener.


Whoa! Great feature!

Huge props to the Bergenholtz bros. and Justin Pawlak. Can't wait to see(and hear) this thing tearing it up!


I'm digging the loaded writing, feels like I'm getting punched in the face with opinion all the way through.

So much more refreshing than the stale junk most car blogs / mags push out by the truckload. Personality in writing = essential.

Keep up the good work.

Oh and nice car. :)


w0ot the BR brothas dont playyyy


I havnt got a clue what this 'something else' will be.....and its killing me to find out. Let the speculation begin!


what did the Bergenholtz brothers come up with?!


I was afraid he would have lame wheels :( Build A+....Style????


Man, I can't wait to see this thing designed and ready. GO JTP.

Btw, does anyone else think that in the first pic, the RX=8 heads are a little S15-esque?


The front end just says "YAY!!"


dope write up Antonio..i remember when this project started off as a bare shell in a wooden has come a long way..props to Bergenholtz Racing/Steen Chassis/JTP and everyone else involved for a sick build..can't wait til the car gets debuted @ Formula D Long Beach..


Ahh this makes me happy. Justin is the tits and this car rocks. Antonio is pretty cool too, come back to Atlanta soon and we'll go back to cracker barrell. Oh and my wife and I had our baby girl 2 weeks ago :D


hmm i wonder if its got a bouncey ball


Full time a few more people give the rx-8 some serious development.


This CA cousin cannot wait to see Justin's Mom & Dad in the back seat of this baby! :-)

Rock and roll!!!!


No roller blades or wheels of anykind


Ronnie, the 8 looks sick, you need to bring it down to nz and see if it can hang with ours!! oh , and by the way i will be ringing you at 4 am soon!


You can always tell when a story is written by Antonio without even looking at the author's name....


You have already seen our preview stories on the upcoming European drift season and the 2009 Japanese D1GP series, so now let's continue with a preview of the 2009 Formula Drift season, which will kick off in just over two weeks on the famous street


Boy I'm tired... I've been shooting photos non-stop since the Formula D event, and haven't