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28 November 2017

The Aussie rotary rocketship that humiliated Porsche

By Mitchell TulkMitchell Tulk
With Dick Johnson behind the wheel, the RX-7 was a weapon. (image credit: autopics.com)

Under the watchful eye of Allan Horsley, Mazda Motorsport created the world's fastest RX-7 production racer.

With the head of Mazda Motorsport Australia, Allan Horsley behind the sences, Allan Moffat campaigned an RX-7 in the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) from 1981-84 to great affect.

Yet, the sports car failed to win Bathurst due to the rotary's lack of torque, with Moffat managing a best place finish of second in '83.

Things would be different in 1992 when Horsley and Mazda returned to The Mountain for the production 12 hour race. The then new FD RX-7 housed sequential twin-turbos, giving the rotary enough grunt to keep up with the more powerful cars. So competitive was the FD, it won by three laps that year and this was just the beginning.

Mazda Australia's three most successful RX-7s. (image credit: Zoom-Zoom mag) Mazda Australia's three most successful RX-7s. (image credit: Zoom-Zoom mag)

In 1993 Porsche, Honda and Nissan joined the fight with the likes of the 968 CS, NSX and Skyline GT-R, yet Mazda claimed victory again, finishing first and second in the race.

The following year saw victory number three for Allan Horsley's team, but Porsche looked to prevent Mazda from winning the 12 hour four years straight in '95 by upgrading to the 911 RSCS.

Knowing that the standard RX-7 couldn't topple the 911, Horsley went about creating Mazda Australia's own hardcore, stripped out racer, resulting in the SP.

If the wing isn't a giveaway that it's an SP just look for the Kangaroo logos. (image credit: Zoom-Zoom mag) If the wing isn't a giveaway that it's an SP just look for the Kangaroo logos. (image credit: Zoom-Zoom mag)

Only 25 models were built before an additional 10 were constructed due to high demand.

The RX-7 SP recieved a carbon-fibre front bumper, an aluminium bonnet with cooling vents, a larger spoiler, 110-litre carbon-fibre fuel tank, bigger disc brakes, four pot callipers, power boosted from 176kW/294Nm to 204kW/357Nm, a high flow exhaust system, a 92kg weight reduction (1310kg-1218kg), and 17-inch wheels with wider rubber.

204kW/357Nm was supercar power levels in the '90s. (image credit: Shannons) 204kW/357Nm was supercar power levels in the '90s. (image credit: Shannons)

A total of 60 modifications were made over the standard RX-7.

Horsley enlisted the driving talents of Dick Johnson and John Bowe, who started the '95 event (held at Eastern Creek) behind the Porsche of Jim Richards and Peter Fitzgerald.

Bowe eventually overtook Fitzgerald for the lead of the race and that's where the Mazda stayed, claiming four striaght 12 hour production car titles.

Mazda has still won  more 12 hour Bathurst events than any other manufacturer. Mazda has still won more 12 hour Bathurst events than any other manufacturer.

Afterwards, Horsley's team began to create the SP II for the '96 race. The turbos from the race car were used in the one off prototype with power estimated at 240kW/460Nm. However, the SP II never went into full production as Mazda revealed it would no longer import the RX-7 after 1998 and the 12 hour event had been cancelled.

One of one, the rarest of the rare. (image credit rx7club.com) One of one, the rarest of the rare. (image credit rx7club.com)

Despite this, the original SP continued to achieve success, scoring a podium finish at the '95 Targa Tasmania rally and an outright victory at '99 GTP Bathurst Showroom Showdown.

The SP nameplate reappeared on the NB MX-5 and RX-8. There was a lot of interest around both models with Mazdaspeed producing its own turbo MX-5 for the American market, while the RX-8 SP competed in the Targa Tasmania, racing against supercars twice as powerful and expensive.

Is this the ultimate RX-7? Let us know what you think in the comments.