We have an exciting weekend coming up here in Japan. For the second time since I’ve been covering the 7’s Day gathering in Daikoku PA, the 7th of July will be on a Saturday which potentially means it could be a very large gathering, maybe as big as the “777” day back in 2007! So to get things rolling and to kick-start this rotary theme I though I’d dig into my picture library and pull out a few interesting wankel-powered machines that I have previously shot. And with Mazda having recently ended the production of the RX-8, I thought it very fitting that my first rotary feature would be of an SE3P, but not any ordinary “eight!” This is the amazing creation that Aoki-san and the Revolution crew have put together, a car that since it’s completion back in late 2010 hasn’t really received the attention it deserves.
Understandably this car was a side project to the FD3S time attack monster that Revolution created, and I always found it amazing that even during the development of the “main machine” they managed to have enough time, and resources, to put this little number together. Just like the RX-7, the RX-8 is more closely related to an outright Super GT racer than a street car, and it really begs to be slowly appreciated in its finest details. So to do so…
…I asked Aoki-san, the president of Revolution, to meet me at one of my favorite shooting locations with the car. Aoki-san, being the good sport that he is and despite having rather high fever on the day, took the time to drive all the way across Tokyo and meet me in Chiba prefecture so I could spend a few hours doing my thing. With the RX-8 being a fully-fledged time attack car the only way to get it over was to load it up onto the Revolution transporter…
…and bring it to the location. Here is Aoki-san doing some quick checks before cranking the custom built engine into life.
I think there is a lot to be learned from how Revolution approached this build; looking at the car from the exterior there are only simple yet very evident modifications, details that add functionality to the car’s aerodynamics and at the same time help shed some weight. Take the front splitter for example. It’s a very thick carbon fiber piece that extends well under the engine to seal the whole front underside of the car, helping diffuse air and generate some load at speed.
Just look at the quality of construction of the actual dry carbon, superb fit onto and around the stock kouki bumper, with a series of fittings that once turned sit flush with the surface so as not to upset the airflow. The carbon-honeycomb structure is attached directly onto the chassis and is so strong you an actually stand on the protruding lip without braking it.
There are more composites on the sides of the car, the carbon doors helping to shed the biggest amount of weight out of the car, which hits the scales at 1,150 kg.
The rears even do away with the glass, in its place a series of louvers to help keep air circulating through the interior. Craft Square mirrors replace the big side mirror, a sort of must-have addition any serious time attack contender!
Just like on Super GT cars, and the Revolution RX-7, the rear glass has been eliminated and replaced by a carbon cover, which joins the carbon fiber trunk lid and the GT-wing. The wing is mounted high on carbon stays so it can take advantage of as much air flowing over the roof of the RX-8 to really help keep that rear end planted through the corners.
Rays Engineering supplied the Volk Racing RE30s for the project, finished off in “Hyper Bronze Premium,” a sort of glossy version of the popular matte bronze we are so used to seeing on Volks. The wheels measure 9.5Jx18″ at each corner and are shod with sticky Hankook Ventus TD Z221 in 265/35R18.
The stock Mazda brakes were eliminated and replaced with a serious track-oriented and proven AP Racing kit, comprising of 6-pots calipers up front and 4-pots at the rear. 355 mm Project µ discs fill out the RE30s inner diameter rather well, while slightly smaller 328 mm versions of the same rotors were fitted at the rear. Very aggressive Project µ 999 high-friction track pads are run all round.
The car rides on a custom set of fully adjustable Revolution Racing Dampers, mated up front to 18 kg/mm Swift springs and 10 kg/mm coils at the back.
Lifting the paper-light vented carbon hood, designed to help shed as much heat from the engine bay as possible, sits the extremely compact naturally aspirated 3-rotor engine. The Revolution crew modified the engine bay so that the custom engine could be located as far back as possible, and when looked at from this angle you can see it pretty much sits all the way behind the front axle line for a true front-midship layout.
For all the commotion that this buzzy Wankel makes, there isn’t much to see in the engine bay! The first thing you notice are the massive air guides that direct air to towards the motor and the interior.
An aluminum pipe connects the water pump outlet all the way to the custom ARC radiator, while additional engine cooling duties are handled by a pair of ARC oil coolers mounted on each side of the bumper.
Here is a close up of the dry-carbon air guide that scoops up fresh air from the grille area of the car…
…and channels it towards the three velocity stacks hiding under the wet-carbon shielding. With the engine sitting almost inside the firewall this is the only way to guarantee that it doesn’t breathe in unwanted hot air from the engine bay.
Unlike Pan Speed, who up until this year ran a 13B-based NA motor in their SE3P, Revolution knew that to go well under the 1-minute barrier at Tsukuba it was going to need a lot more power than a 13B, or the Renesis, could ever achieve. The 3-rotor choice was an obvious one, and to stay true to the RX-8 concept it would have to be naturally aspirated. It all began with a 20B donor engine, stripped down and then reassembled with 13B housings, peripherally ported to guarantee the highest possible performance and response. Special 643 cc Revolution rotors were used to achieve the 9.7:1 compression ratio while a complex exhaust manifold was created to keep optimal backpressure throughout the rev-range. To allow for good oil circulation and to help mount the engine as low as possible Revolution dry-sumped the 3-rotor lump, adding auxiliary pumps and a remote oil tank just as you would find in any serious race car.
The engine breathes through three 50 mm custom throttles and 1000 cc/min injectors supply the necessary fuel needed to develop the 414 HP it is able to churn out at 8,400 rpm. While the torque curve might be typically high for a rotary this engine is still able to develop 289 lb/ft (40 kgm) at 6,800 rpm, which out on the track is actually very usable and well matched to the transmission’s ratios. Engine management is handled by a Motec M4 ECU and as you can see above, all sensors and electronics are neatly laid out as they would be on a true race car.
Against the dramatic sky overlooking the Tokyo Bay the RX-8 was beginning to look more and more amazing by the minute and as you can imagine…
…I expected nothing less than perfection in the interior too! Revolution imported this R-8 from the US for the better weight distribution over the right hand drive JDM cars. Prior to the build the whole car was stripped down to the naked chassis to allow for a heavy dose of spot welding and the custom roll cage to be fabricated. The RX-8’s signature rear suicide-doors, despite their coolness and practicality (not to mention that they make shooting the interior an utter joy!) do take away substantially from the overall structural rigidity of the car. So after repositioning the driver’s and passenger’s seats further back…
…tons of work went into bracing as much of the shell as possible. They even fitted air-jacks, helping to save precious time at the track when changing wheels.
The 3-rotor motor channels its output directly to the Hewland 6-speed mechanical transmission, which has been custom mounted in the modified transmission tunnel. No expense was spared here either, the whole tunnel having been boxed in dry carbon and the custom shifter assembly and linkage…
…mounted in a way to make access to the lever as natural as possible. Each side of this custom console served as the perfect location to mount all necessary switchgear. Even all the cabling has been neatly laid out. Everything you look at is a superb example of attention to detail.
With the driver now sitting a good 30 cm back compared to the stock position, the steering column had to be extended by a similar amount and was then fitted with a Super GT-style flip-up steering boss.
The central part of the steering wheel houses the Motec LCD unit with gives access to a variety of displays by flicking through the various pages.
An adjustable pedal box followed, not only allowing the driver to reach the dry carbon pedals, but to also adjust the position of each one for optimal comfort.
Red Revolution bucket seats and Takata-belts complete the interior upgrades.
Since the shoot the Revolution RX-8 has participated at one Tsukuba Super Lap Battle just managing to beat the Pan Speed RX-8’s time, with a 1’00″260 sec. There is ton of potential and now that Pan Speed has also gone 3-rotor in their SE3P, I’m sure we will be seeing these long time rivals really battle it out at the track.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photo By Dino Dalle Carbonare