Fastback Friday – The Rotary Club

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[Ed’s Note: The following rant is courtesy of Janne Pitkänen, an old friend. He drives a 2004 RX-8  -Antti]

My RX-8 is nearly ready for the summer. A few niggles had to be taken care of, most importantly a clunking sound in the front suspension. The dealership promised to take care of any niggles, within reason, so I contacted the mechanic who had worked on my car before.

Now, I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye in the past with professional dealerships, brand mechanics and their general standard of quality, or lack of. More often than not, even the simplest of tasks would require hours and hours of effort and numerous visits to the garage to be anywhere near sorted. Instead, I’ve learned to trust my own hand and the collective information on various internet forums. On model specific faults, this has proven to be a goldmine of data. I tend to buy most my cars from private sellers for this exact reason, I don’t see any value in paying the dealer premium.

And even though endlink bushings are the sort of thing I could replace myself, there was a few things advocating towards cooperation. First of all, the dealer seemed like a fair bloke. Second of all, I’d like to avoid getting my hands dirty if at all possible. But most importantly, the mechanic in question was also the mechanic of an RX-Mazda rally team.

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So off to the team’s garage it was! The first thing I noticed amidst some daily runners, was an old FB-chassis RX-7, an obvious partscar.

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Inside it was a completely different story. On the top, an RX-8 with 300-odd horsepower. “We fitted discs from a Mazda 6, see?” “Uhmm.. why would you do that? Are they better than the RX’s?” “No no no. Just that the rally wheel is 16″, and the RX’s brakes wouldn’t fit.” I glanced at the suspension components, which seemed heavily reinforced, but mostly standard in design. The swaybar had stiffness adjustable endlinks, for instance.

The RX-7 beneath it was in complete historic rally specification, with some 200hp shoving it along. My car seemed like a shopping cart in this company.

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I asked about the reliability of wankels in such gruesome punishment. “They’re actually very reliable. More reliable than standard piston engines, I’d say. And hell, if these things do decide to punch out, it’s just a 75kg lump we have to work on, while the other guys need to rebuild their 300kg powerplants after every race!”

These wankel-rally cars have suffered 5 technical breakdowns in the last 12 years, according the driver. They run on two stroke petrol, which basically eliminates the possibility of a breakdown due to lubrication failure. This isn’t completely unheard of in road cars either, as many RX-8 drivers use a oil/petrol-premix in addition to their regular fill-ups. Add this to the relative simplicity of the wankel-design, and the reliability claim isn’t hard to believe.

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At the end of the day, the new bushings didn’t entirely fix the clunking sound. A shock absorber in need of replacement? Maybe. But not today. Today I met a humorously cartoonish rally team, consisting of a short and chubby driver and a tall and thin mechanic. Sure didn’t leave me cold.

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Also taking space in the garage – A Jaguar XJS on a skewer, previously owned by a certain CEO. Looking out for some rust repairs and perhaps some rallying?

[Images & words: Janne Pitkänen]

3 Comments

  1. Not exactly my first thought. But now that you mention it, there is a clear resemblance.
    Although I couldn't see the shorter chap doing any wheeler dealing. He was there mainly to drive them. =)

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