Speed Machine Performance is a retailer and tuning house run by Dave Gibson and his team of knowledgeable techs, who boast a combined 30 years of experience working with rotary engines, most recently gaining notoriety in the Mazda drift community. The shop has had its hands on some fairly high-profile slide machines, like the FD generation RX-7s of the C-West/DRFT and Falken Tire teams, and in fact Falken Motorsports has retained Speed Machine’s services as mechanics and car makers. That’s why when it was time for Falken to look toward its drifting future, it went right to its valued constructor.
The platform this time, was Mazda’s current sports coupe, the RX-8, a vehicle that in stock trim is motivated by a naturally-aspirated Renesis rotary mill. While the RX-8’s Wankel is an evolutionary cousin of the previous 13B motor, it was designed to reduce exhaust emission and improve fuel spending; it poses unique tuning challenges when compared to the tuner-favorite, twin-turbocharged Mazda 13B-REW rotary powerplant from the RX-7. The 13-REW is a classic power plant that seamlessly used one pump for low-end power before switching to the second turbo for the top end of the rev range.
The Speed Machine team also realized quite early that the naturally aspirated setup wouldn’t go in the highly turbocharged world of professional drifting. The sport isn’t necessarily about speed, but it is about being able to get sideways at will, and an extreme amount of torque is critical to doing that.
To mitigate the issue in the quickest manner, SMP decided on a engine swap; calling on Mazda’s sequential twin-turbo 13B-RE Cosmo rotaries for drift duty – SMP freshened it up with super lightweight 9:1-compression rotors and NRS ceramic seals before dropping it into the RX-8 engine bay. The engine studs were cryogenically treated for a further measure of bulletproofing, and then Speed Machine came up with its own custom urethane engine mounts to swap the mill into an RX-8’s FE3S chassis.
SMP continued to look for power by completely overhauling the forced induction setup on the 13B, fashioning custom manifolds for the duo of Garrett GT28RS turbochargers. Twin Turbosmart 48mm Pro-gate wastegates allow exhaust to bypass the pumps’ turbine blades, and spent gases are sent to the atmosphere via a dual 3” aluminum exhaust. Meanwhile the compressor sections compel induction to a Blitz Nissan Skyline GT-R intercooler that’s been outfitted with SMP end tanks, a heat exchanger that is V mounted opposite a custom Speed Machine double-pass, dual-core radiator and FAL fan. Charge plumbing, rigged with Adel Wiggins clamps and a pair of Turbosmart race port blow-off valves, ultimately delivers boost to an SMP custom intake manifold with two 72mm BDL throttle bodies.
The increased induction required equal consideration for fuel, and to that end SMP went all out to create a system that delivers on demand in a rough competition environment. It opted for big 1,000cc RC Engineering injectors fed by dual Aeromotive A1000 pumps and adjusted with Aeromotive A1000 injected bypass regulators, one per each rail. Fuel for the RX-8 originates in a 12-gallon Fuel Safe cell and is deposited into a surge tank thanks to an Aeromotive Tsunami feed pump. With the induction and fuel elements in place, Speed Machine keeps the power on edge without blowing things up through the use of electronics, namely a Haltech E11v2 engine management and Turbosmart e-Boost2 boost controller.
SMP continued to look for a competition advantage by sorting out the gearbox that comes with the 13B, plugging in an OS Giken close-ratio gear set and 2-way differential in the FD gen. transmission. Additionally, the shop customized a Japanese-spec FD3S RX-7 chassis steering rack with its own tie rods, and redid the rear suspension members with its custom 5-link setup. Also aiding in handling and hooking up are a quartet of Tein Mono Flex coilovers with EDFC and an equivalent number of SSR MS1 rims shod in Falken RT-615 rubber.
SMP’s formula for making this Mazda fly comes complete with aerodynamic bits, too, in particular a Mazdaspeed aero kit and APR Performance GTC wing. To shave speed, or get the car squirrelly, brake mods came in the form of Project Mu 4-piston, 4-pad front calipers, with rears on the way from Japan. Speed Machine also gave the RX-8 Teflon-lined brake lines and a Wilwood dual-master pedal assembly.
Inside the cabin of the coupe, the spare, all-business interior is marked by a roll cage, Sparco Evo bucket seat, and a Safecraft halon 1301 fire suppression system. The RX-8’s pilot steers via Sparco wheel, attached to a Works Bell quick release, and keeps appraised of the Mazda’s performance through an AiM Sports MXL data acquisition system and digital dash.
Speaking of drivers, Japanese racing ace Seigo Yamamoto has been charged with challenging the North American pro drift landscape with the pumped up RX-8. He is one of Falken’s go-to pilots, and stands to gain the most from Speed Machine’s stellar track record for tough-as-nails competition Mazdas. With the season in full swing and a brand new ride at his disposal, he’s in good shape to end ’07 with a strong finish. Competitors should take heed; the biggest threat is probably coming from the last place they expect it.