Getting the car readyAnd I have often felt despair at the thought that I can't properly enjoy it. But with the help of my friend Mike, who is a proper Rotary Doctor, the TurboII RX-7 is now once again alive and kicking. Us Rotorheads have to stick together, and Mike has been there for me since day one. While I was on vacation, he worked relentlessly for almost two weeks to get the car back online ahead of a big local event.
Since the car already had an Aeromotive fuel pump, it was also time to upgrade the injectors. So I'm now using Bosch 2,200 cc secondaries and 730 cc primaries, which means we're all set up for 500 horsepower after a turbocharger upgrade. Of course, this upgrade also required new fuel rails and a fuel pressure regulator.
Meanwhile, more parts came in from Atkins Rotary, and the car also needed to undergo a mandatory technical inspection alongside an updated insurance policy. I cut my vacation short to return home in time for the Saisho Fest. I still couldn't believe the car was finally ready to hit the road. The racetrack was about 150 miles (240 km) away, so we were looking at a three to four hours drive through countryside roads and one of the coolest touges (mountain pass) around.
Driving to the eventDriving through town on a busy, cold Saturday morning, I had to be patient before getting on the throttle too hard. But once we were out on the open road, I almost cried, experiencing 0.4 bars of boost for the first time. Despite my exhilaration, it all felt a bit slow, but I realized that must have been due to my recent outing in Mike's FD.
Switching from 500 horsepower to less than 300 can do that to you. But I felt a lot better as I remembered the Adaptronic M2000 ECU was still running on a safe base map for now. With two people inside, tools, and luggage, the turbocharged 13B engine used up about 11 gallons (41 liters) of fuel for 150 miles. That was slightly better than expected and quite normal for this engine.
We eventually arrived at the venue, a modern Go Kart facility with a 1-mile long layout. Everyone in the paddock jumped at the sight of Mike's FD, while most of the younger fans seemed puzzled by the FC. "What's that?" quickly turned to "Look, it's an FC!" as a few hardcore rotorheads showed up. There were a lot of cool cars onsite, including two tricked-out Supras, an NSX, multiple S-Chassis, a lot of Hondas, and several Subarus, to name a few. We found a place for the two RX-7s, and it took only a short time for several RX-8s to complete the rotary display.
Day One - SkidpadSliding the FC felt fun, but I need more seat time to improve. I didn't want to push the car too much, as I still needed to install the front-mount intercooler and a bigger electric fan for efficient cooling. But I still wanted one more session, as two kids had come over asking if they could sit in the passenger seat. A few clutch kicks into the action, I felt the pedal sticking to the floor, and I feared the worst. Had I destroyed the clutch?
Going into the event, I knew anything could happen with the engine or the car itself, so I tried to calm down. I had to push the vehicle back to the paddock, and Mike quickly had a look around. We decided to try bleeding the system first, as it was the most reasonable explanation. Two hours passed without luck, and it was already dark outside. We decided to give it another go in the morning.
After a good night's sleep, something occurred to me. I had noticed some bolts on the floor, right next to the clutch pedal. When I told Mike about it, he rushed to check the situation and immediately realized what had happened. One of my clutch kicks had created the problem, and it was an easy fix. Five minutes later, we had already begun tweaking the map to get more boost out of the turbo.
Day Two- Time AttackI wasn't all that fast, given my limited knowledge of the layout, winter tires, and gearbox synchro issues. I stopped the clock at 1:23.402, which meant I was about 10 seconds slower than the fastest guys out there (one driving a time-attack spec Honda CR-X and the other in an upgraded, third-generation Toyota MR2). But at least I was slightly faster than a tuned Honda Civic Type R and about three seconds ahead of a Mazda RX-8.
I decided against going to the gas station to fill the tank, which was probably not the best idea. During my third session, the car would run out of juice under heavy sideways Gs. That happened in two or three corners on the track, and it wasn't funny at all. As I tried to make up for lost time, I started pushing harder and harder. Going completely sideways sometimes was fun, but I also spun out a few times.
But I'm happy to report that getting into that situation doesn't feel scary, at least not on the track. This experience has been on my bucket list for years and years now, and I'm so thankful to have lived it out despite all the drawbacks. Even though the car feels fantastic on the street, you realize how much work you still need to do to make it run effectively at the racetrack.
We only encountered a few cars down the road, and even though we didn't push the cars to their limit, it was still tremendously fun. I once again felt like crying, realizing all these years of waiting were worth it. In conclusion, I'll quote this song by Amba Shepperd: "If you feel like all hope is gone, dig deep, soldier on!"