Have we ever mentioned how much we love the Deals Gap Rotary Rally? If you're into rotary-powered Mazdas, this really is the must-do event of the year, since you not only get to hang out with a few hundred like-minded rotorheads, but you also get to see tailpipes shooting flames while chasing all sorts of modified RX-7s and 8s down the legendary Tail of the Dragon route through the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.
The fun doesnt stop there, though. The DGRR also includes a car show, and just like we did last year, were once again bringing you the Best-in-Show winner. And since this is an event that attracts hard-core driving enthusiasts first and foremost, there simply arent any trailer queens cluttering up the parking lot at Nantahala Village (home base for the DGRR). So although Greg Thompson's RX-8 is serious eye candy, its also his daily driver and gets regularly thrashed on the street and at the racetrack.
So how did Greg's 8 evolve into the first SE3P to have claimed the big trophy at DGRR? As he told us, In high school I owned and started to modify a '91 MR2. This was my commuter car through college, and the plan was to pick up another sporty car as a daily driver and turn the Toyota into a dedicated track car. After picking up the RX-8 and driving it every day to and from work, I started to fall in love with the characteristics of the Renesis engine and the balance of the chassis; it was just a ton of fun to drive.
Not that his early RX-8 ownership experience was complete bliss, because truth be told, it did make frequent trips to the dealership for the many factory recalls that plagued SE3P owners back in 2004 and 2005. The early teething pains associated with RX-8 ownership might have scared away less diehard enthusiasts, but not Greg. As he put it, After all the recall trips came to an end, I contemplated what every tuner-hobbyist asks himself: Do I stop here and enjoy what I have or plunge in and take it as far as I can? Obviously Greg chose the latter, even sacrificing his once-beloved MR2 to the god of spinning Doritos so he could focus on transforming his RX-8 into the stunner you see now.
Its hugely appealing exterior treatmentundoubtedly a big part of its popularity with the DGRR judgesdidnt happen by accident. Greg is, in fact, a concept designer for the military and recently won Stillens body kit design contest for the Scion FR-S, a background that has strongly influenced the evolution of his RX-8. As Greg explained, When I decided to start modifying the car, the plan was to proceed in stages. At each stage, the performance and aesthetics of the car would be in balance with each other, so when I added some performance, I would also add some aesthetics to match. I felt this design philosophy was important because I wanted to be able to justify any modifications made based on the fact that it did not look out of place on the car, nor would the car look incomplete to others, even if it did to me. Being a professional designer definitely helped me develop and stick to this game plan.
Like most designers, Greg wanted the modifications he made to his 8 to have an OE look and feel to them. I wanted a look that really only stood out to those familiar with what they were seeing. I wanted it to be relatively subtle, yet when parked next to a stock RX-8 it would really stand out. Some have described it as a Mazdaspeed RX-8 on steroids. And to achieve this look, Greg hasnt been afraid to bust out the Dremel tool to customize expensive and rare JDM parts to his specifications, though he always test-fits new design ideas in Photoshop first.
Although you may have a tough time spotting some of the changes, there are very few panels on Gregs RX-8 that have not been modified. The AutoExe front bumper, for example, has gone under the knife not once but twice first to extend the ceiling of the main grille by 2 inches and then, a year later, to lower the air dam that feeds the secondary radiators located within the under tray. He then finished off his unique AutoExe front end by adding a factory chin spoiler from a Mazda 3.
The tail end of Gregs 8 has also been subtly changed to fit his design goals. For starters, he removed the OE trunk lid spoiler and welded the mounting holes up before adding a factory 05 Pontiac GTO wing. As Greg explained, This wing has a built-in third brake light, and I made the decision to keep this in place of the factory-located trunk light, so I uninstalled the one on the trunk and welded in a plate before refinishing it. Carrying the theme of subtle and cleanly integrated modifications into the interior, Greg has equipped his 8 with Recaro Sportster CS front seats (very similar to the seats Mazda used in the R3) and replaced the red and black leather-trimmed interior with black cloth. He then carried the darker theme into the headliner by dying it black as well as blacking out all the plastic trim. Other subtle updates include an AutoExe carbon-fiber shift knob, Alcantara shift boot and armrest covers, a carbon-fiber gauge cover, and an AutoExe buckskin steering wheel cover.
Going back to Gregs philosophy of adding an equal amount of go to balance the addition of any show, he opted for the highly effective Pettit Racing Stage II supercharger kit. As Greg put it, This supercharger is perfectly suited to the corner-carving characteristics of the 8s chassis, delivering smooth and predictable power. With the exception of the superchargers whine, which gives the already distinctive howl of the Renesis even more character, it behaves in the same manner as the stock engine but with more power everywhere.
Cornering and stopping power have also been addressed, ensuring that Gregs 8 is ready to attack the Tail of the Dragon while retaining enough civility to be used on the daily commute. Starting with Tein coilovers and Racing Beat antisway bars, he also bolted up a whole host of tie bars and braces for some added chassis stiffness. The Kumho-wrapped 18-inch Volk Racing SF Challenge wheels are slowed by Racing Brakes 13-inch big brake kit with four-piston aluminum calipers and two-piece slotted rotors, though for track days he swaps on a set of Enkei GTC-01 wheels wrapped in DOT race rubber.
With such a balanced and detail-oriented approach, its easy to see how this Renesis-powered beauty claimed the 12 DGRR crown and its place among rotary royalty, but Greg assures us his RX-8 is far from complete. I consider it to be in its third stage of the build, but stage four will be the most involved and tedious. I will be swapping in a 13B-RE engine sourced from Rotor Sports Racing, and Im also going to further modify the hood, front and rear bumpers, and side skirts. Ill also be building all-new front fenders and a ducktail spoiler and a custom trunk with some secret features built in. Were hoping that means a Cannonball Runspec disappearing license plate.
Specs & Details
05 Mazda RX-8 GT
Engine Modifications Pettit Racing Stage II supercharger kit and custom secondary radiator; SR Motorsports alternator pulley; Rotary Performance high-flow catalytic converter; Racing Beat dual resonated mid-pipe, cat-back exhaust, oil filter relocation kit, and oil cooler hose set; BDC ported and polished TB; MazMart REmedy water pump and clutch pedal bracket; Magnecore 8.5mm plug wires; RMagic grounding wires; GReddy oil pan; Fluid Motorsports carbon-fiber oil catch can; Optima YellowTop battery
Engine Management Pettit Racing reflash
Drivetrain Mazdaspeed clutch and lightweight flywheel; Axial Flow short shifter
Wheels, Tires & Brakes custom painted Volk Racing SF Challenge 18x9 (f) and 18x10 (r) wheels (street); Enkei GTC-01s 18x8.5 wheels (track and winter); Kumho Ecsta SPT 245/40R18 (f) and 275/35R18 (r) tires; Racing Brake 13 big brake kit with 4-piston aluminum calipers and 2-piece slotted rotors (f/r); SS brake lines; Motul RBF600 brake fluid; Racing Brake ET 500 pads (street)
Suspension Tein Type Flex coilovers; Mazdaspeed strut bars (f/r); Racing Beat sway bars (f/r); Agency Power adjustable end links (f/r); AutoExe undercar bracing and tie rod ends
Exterior AutoExe SE-03c front bumper (customized); SE-03 hood, brake ducts and venturis; Mazdaspeed side skirts and rear under spoiler; KS Auto Burnout CF type2 chin spoiler (track bumper); Piano Black B-pillars; Holden Monaro wing w/ shaved 3rd brake light; custom wing gurney; shaved trunk emblems; APR GTC200 CF wing w/ 2.5 risers (track trunk); RX8Strakes FX clear corners and super white LED running lights; 8000K super white Xenon headlamp bulbs; stealth turn signals; super white LED side marker lights
Interior Recaro Sportster CS front seats; AutoExe black buckskin wheel wrap and CF shift knob; AFE short shifter; Racing Beat lower dash gauges; carbon-fiber dash shroud; Tein EDFC; ShiftSports Alcantara shift boot and armrests; blacked-out headliner and interior cloth; 3M 35% window tint
Numbers 302 whp
Special Thanks Cam and Moon from Pettit Racing, Phil Sohn and Deals Gap Rotary Rally, Heath and Bel Air Mazda, VP Auto, PJ Paint and Body, and all the fellow rotorheads out there