Category in Focus: Mazda RX8 Cup

RX8 Cup came into inception in mid-2017 as the brainchild of long-time production car racer Ric Shaw. Ric wanted to apply his knowledge base to create the most cost-effective one-make national production car based category in Australia, and the rapid expansion of the category is testimony to the dedication of Ric and the rest of the management team.

The first demonstration round at Winton in November 2017 saw seven competitors take to the track, but from that humble starting position, the category has grown in leaps and bounds. There are over 30 cars constructed around the country and grids are expected to be in the mid-20’s for the later part of the 2019 season.

The philosophy of the category was to base the vehicles around 3E Production Car specifications, using a series 1 Mazda RX8 as the base, with further restrictions applied to simplify construction and maintenance.

Every modification permitted under the rules is tested against specific questions – does it fix an inherent problem with the car? Is the cost justified?  Do the modifications improve competition or is it a modification for modification’s sake? Thought is applied to all areas of the car.

This means that the car is a tightly-controlled package – a vehicle that anybody with elementary mechanical skills build at home in their own garage. Maintenance can be performed with basic tools. A competitor can run at the front of the field without the expertise or expense of a specialised engineer.

Why build a category around an RX8? Quite simply, it is the right time for the car. Due to their popularity as road cars, RX8s are cheap and readily available – good running examples are for sale for around $6,000, while cars that need some work change hands for as little as $1000.

The RX8 is well-balanced, with inherent performance and handling characteristics that suit motor racing applications. The RX8 is also a modern looking vehicle, which has attracted a loyal following of rotary enthusiasts.

The rotary motors have proven to be bulletproof – in the time the category has been running, a number of competitors are still using their original engine, and the expected lifespan of an engine is two to three seasons with the correct maintentance.

The cost of building a competitive RX8 race car is $10,000-$14,000, if you do the work yourself, and cars in this price range are capable of running at the front of the field.

In keeping with the cost-containment focus, the RX8 Cup uses Nankang control tyres, which are available for just $200 per tyre. These tyres have proven to last for multiple race meetings, and there is little performance difference between new and old tyres, significantly reducing tyre expenses.

Other items are also tightly controlled, including MCA coil-over suspension systems, exhausts, CIRCO brake pads and Speedy Wheels. The water pump and radiator are also upgraded to enhance reliability under race conditions.

RX8 Cup cars are all fitted with mandatory safety equipment, including roll cage, seat and harness, with deals available for series competitors. AGI bolt-in roll cages are popular among competitors, as they are easy to transfer from one shell to another.

The RX8 Cup has become one of the core categories on the AMRS program, due to its affordability, consistently high competitor numbers and close, entertaining racing. It is a category that provides a fun environment for racing, and one where talented drivers are able to demonstrate their abilities at a national level.

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