Launched during a great era for fast Japanese cars, the FD-generation Mazda RX-7 quickly and rightly earned a reputation as an excellent driving machine and race car in the early-'90s. So much so that, almost 14 years after the last ones rolled off the line, motorsport teams and enthusiasts are still finding the coupe's limits on road and track. The FD's balance makes it a hard act to beat, even lined up against modern machinery. That's exactly what Team Endless is out to prove.
Endless is part of the growing number of international teams competing in the World Time Attack Challenge, which takes place every year in Sydney, Australia. It's hard to miss the Japanese tuner's pit garage—a hive of post-lap activity, the sharp brap-brap-brap of a ported rotary bouncing off concrete at idle is unmistakable. And that's before you get an eyeful of that aero. Team driver Atsushi Shimaya clearly has a taste for them: "I've owned a few FDs," he tells us. "It's always looked amazing and I love the unique character, the way it has the feel of a two-stroke bike engine. I wouldn't have anything else."
This RX-7 has made the trip over to World Time Attack before. Shimaya-san put in a 1:33.550 lap time at the '13 event in the Pro Am class, but under the banner of Japanese engine and aero specialist R Magic. This class might lack the record-setting headlines of the Pro class, but it comes close. Cars are built to the same regulations as the top classes but don't have professional racing drivers at the wheel. It's closely fought, with sub-90-second lap times being recorded by all three podium finishes last year—that's well into the Pro class results. Shimaya-san isn't a pro driver, but he's no amateur either and has been an important part of Team Endless. As the head of research and development at Endless Sport, he gets the enviable task of track-testing high-performance parts for one of Japan's best-known tuners. If your car has the Endless logo anywhere under the skin, chances are not only is Shimaya-san the man behind it, but this RX-7 could be the car it was tested on. Taking on international time attack events is a good way to show off the results of his hard work: "The RX-7's handling was legendary when it launched," he explains. "It's a great machine for cornering at high speeds on circuits, so we knew we could build a competitive time attack car without needing a monster engine."
Endless sourced this car as a bare body, a stripped '94-spec car ideal for building to the team's requirements over a two-year stretch. Pro class rules meant the basic structure couldn't be changed too heavily, and it had to remain rear-wheel drive, but the regulations are otherwise fairly generous. This left plenty of room to focus on aero, chassis, and engine tuning. Since competing in '13, it has changed slightly. Most of the bodywork is still based on the R Magic wide-body aero kit, but the bolt-on aero parts are all new. That huge centrally mounted rear wing and equally non-subtle front splitter are the most obvious new additions. Engineers at R Magic spent weeks fine-tuning air movement over the body to press it hard into Sydney's cool tarmac. It took so long that the car was only painted and liveried a few days before being loaded into the container for the event.
Making the most of that extra downforce, there's a power hike to around 620 hp—as yet there's been no time to get it on a dyno for an accurate figure. But the mammoth Garrett GTX-R series turbo that's squeezing boost into the R-Magic-tuned peripheral-ported two-rotor engine leaves us in no doubt that it's possible. It's all managed by an HKS ECU and a boost controller, while a six-speed HKS sequential transmission and Ogura race-spec clutch channel that rotary fury toward the wheels.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that most of the chassis work is a showcase for Endless's products. The body comes heavily braced by a 13-point rollcage and, at its corners, the fully adjustable Super Function coilovers are bespoke-built for time attack. Paired with four-piston Endless brakes front and rear, everything can be tuned down to the tiniest detail. "The brakes are a great setup for track use; we've got them really well balanced and they're very linear in response, so you're always in control," Shimaya says. "The only problem we had with the chassis was getting the wheels to fit under the arches without rubbing while cornering—there was a lot of room, but not enough."
Despite the preparation, things haven't quite gone according to plan on its first outing under the Endless livery. Engine and electrical problems early on gave the team a tough start to the event, which the team reckons may have held back on it showing its full potential. But, at 1:32.9610, the Mazda finished up with a result good enough to rival some of the Pro class. The event has been a learning experience, though: "Delays during the build meant we only got a 30-minute test in Japan before we loaded it into the container, which wasn't enough. The main thing we learned last year was how important it is to prepare, so we'll be doing more before the next event, aiming for an even better time." It's not clear when that next opportunity will come around, but this isn't likely to be the RX-7's final trip to Sydney. "We're planning a rebuild before next time, but it's too early to say what we'll be doing. All we know is, we'll be increasing the power. The new turbo has more to give." We're expecting big things. The Endless team has already proven near-four-figure power outputs aren't always needed to be competitive. With a little more practice and another year's experience on their side, this car looks likely to push the limits a little further during its next assault on an already very entertaining Pro AM class.
In the Chase
Last year's Pro Am class saw three sub-1:30 lap finishes. Team Endless has their work cut out for them if they want to podium next time around.
Last year's winner of the Pro Am class was the MQ Racing Evo, driven by Michael Sigsworth, with a 1:25.75 lap.
Second place belonged to Chris Alexander and the CJA Motorsport R32 Skyline GT-R with a 1:28.27 lap.
Third place, another car that showed us four-digit horsepower isn't always the fastest. Robert Nguyen piloted the Mighty Mouse 101 Honda CR-X to a 1:29.51 lap.