TRACK KINGS

1983 MAZDA RX7 SERIES III

WORDS ALEX AFFAT

It takes a lot to throw yourself into the world of competitive motorsport.

Late nights in the shed and early mornings at the track – not to mention the endless cycle of building, racing, fixing, preparing – it defies rationality by almost all measures.

But cars aren’t rational, nor is the love we all bear for them.

The three first-generation RX7s that grace these pages are owned by some of the most dedicated, passionate blokes we’ve come across. And the cars speak for themselves.

From improved production circuit racers, to a nut-and-bolt recreation of a Group B rally icon, each car is distinct, yet purposed for each of their chosen disciplines. Each one, immeasurably rewarding.

Owners Joseph, Peter and Matt all have their own stories, but all are united by the love of Mazda’s rotary legend.

The spirit of motorsport is the search for self-improvement; always striving to make the car better, and to push yourself further.

While motor racing continues to capture hearts and minds on the world stage, we meet here three Aussie blokes embodying the spirit in our own backyard.

1983 MAZDA RX7 SERIES III

JOSEPH LENTHALL’S story with his beloved Series III RX7 starts as a kid in Adelaide, growing up and watching rotary-powered R100s howling around racetracks.

Upon moving to Sydney, he found a lot of the guys there were racing early-series RX7s instead of the compacts in his homestate, “because they handled better, and they were cheaper too,” back then.

“I’ve always wanted a bridgeport race car,” says Joseph, a motorsport man at heart. He picked up this ex-works racecar, and under his care, it continues to be raced and enjoyed.

In 2013, Joseph embarked on the brave and admirable endeavour of undertaking a full tear-down rotisserie rebuild and respray in his single-car suburban Sydney garage.

“We soda blasted it in my garage, it looked like Dexter, with all the plastic sheets hanging everywhere.”

Joseph jokes that it “wasn’t a great decision” but in doing all the work himself he saved himself some vital pocket change.

“There would have been no way I’d have been able to afford it,” he says.

As for future plans, Joseph simply wants to maintain his car and keep on racing.

When asked about advice for those seeking early RX7s of their own, Joseph is quick to point out the mechanical horror stories usually linked to the Wankel engine.

“Like anything, if you keep stretching it, eventually it will break.”

“I’ve never had it go on me, I’ve never had it go boom, it’s never spat out a seal”.

Joseph stresses that with diligent maintenance, major catastrophes can be avoided.

“Catch it before it goes boom,” he says. "Check, refurb, refresh.

"It’s much better to check and fix something, than have to find and rebuild a whole engine."

“I’VE ALWAYS WANTED A BRIDGEPORT RACE CAR"

"THE CAR UNDERWENT A FULL ROTISSERIE REBUILD, WITH PETER WORKING ON THE CAR FULL TIME FOR TWO MONTHS"

1979 MAZDA RX7 SERIES I

PETER INGRAM and his brother Matt have been mucking around with Rotaries all of their life.

“We’ve always done everything together, from 4x4s to bikes… we built a rotary in high school and after that we got an RX3," Ingram explains.

During that RX3 time the boys fell in love with RX7s, Peter buying this car and his brother eventually buying his own.

This RX7 in particular was an ex-championship winning car, but was a rolling chassis when Peter bought it in 2015.

An engine was promptly dropped in that same year, supported by Motec engine management.

Since then, the project has been incrementally evolving between each racing outing.

In his second year of competition with the car, Peter won the NSW Improved production Championship in 2016.

At the end of 2017, the car underwent a full rotisserie rebuild, with Peter working on the car full time for two months.

When asked what remains of the car today since that first year of ownership, Peter paused – mentally retracing the entire build before simply stating and laughing “headers”.

This year already off to a flying start, Peter and his RX7 won the IPRA round at the Clipsal 500 earlier this year.

Future plans for the car are simply to keep on racing the car and enjoying it. The boys are currently looking at some small chassis tweaks, ways to draw more power out of the engine and are currently cleaning up the wiring and replacing the old relays with a Motec PDM system.

Motorsport is obviously a path less-travelled by most car enthusiasts, but Peter is quick to point out the social aspect as a greatly rewarding one.

“When something breaks 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be out there on the dummy grid, and you’ve got guys you’re actually competing against in their racesuits helping you out… it’s a humbling feeling," says Peter.

As for anyone looking for their own RX7; “Do it!” he exclaims, “They’re such a fun car.

“When my car puts out 300hp at the wheels, and is able to take on a 2005 Commodore with 700hp… it’s really rewarding.”

1980 MAZDA RX7 GROUP B REPLICA

THE GOBSMACKING car you see on these pages, is not Ingvar Carlsson’s 1984 Group B RX7, but any normal person would be hard-pressed to pick the differences.

A four-year-long labour of owner Matt Love, the build began with a rusty old shell, that – with the help of a second donor car – he completely built himself “front to back".

"THIS CAR IS A NUT-AND-BOLT FOCUSED TRIBUTE TO THAT HALLOWED GROUP B RX7"

As close as physically possible, this car is a nut-and-bolt focused tribute to that hallowed Group B RX7.

Armed with build material from the FIA and CAMS, Love tracked down the fibreglass panels from Europe. The car houses a spec-correct PP dry-sumped motor.

“I called up AP Racing and it just so happened the bloke that built them back in 1984 was there and knew how to remake them,” says Love.

He says the only parts on the car that majorly differ from Carlsson’s are the Holinger gearbox, the diff which was a mix of a Toyota Hiace component – and a Cusco Supra diff, and the steering rack.

The car has competed in rallies around Australia, and the goal this year is to cross the pond and have a steer in New Zealand.

Love speaks of the build being a slow-burn in its early years as his attention was elsewhere in his personal life, but now he is semi-retired, he’s prepared to give the car his full attention and to keep on racing.