Power isn’t everything 7Tuners and this car is proof. Often, the more ignorant among us are so wrapped up in a cars power output that they forget power is nothing without balance and control…
With only 240hp, R-Magic’s little RX-8 that could, in Mitsuhiro Kinoshita’s capable hands, managed to lap Tsukuba’s proving ground in 1 minute and 3 seconds. If you know anything about lap times around Tsukuba, you will know that’s a ballistic time for a car with such little power; a time that super cars with double the amount of power and ten times the sticker price still can’t manage.
The RX-8 has to be one of the most underrated chassis in the modern Japanese tuning world. It’s such a shame that it’s so undervalued and troubled with online chatter about its reliability and lack of power when none of that makes any sense from the drivers seat of R-Magic’s track and touge weapon. R-Magic President, Ohara san, is a quietly spoken all-rounder in the industry and has been a pioneer for rotary tuning in Japan for decades. He builds formidable drift, endurance, time attack and street weapons of all varieties but you will most likely know of his pink and white creations in time attack and drift. His D1 and one lap wonder FD3S’s are known internationally for their style and speed.
So it makes sense that he knows how to properly set up a Rotary powered chassis for outright speed and handling, right?
Remember, cars are so often not about the numbers that come with them. Case-in-point, R-Magic’s RX-8. It’s an exercise in function over form, a car that has been built with handling and response as the major requirements; a car that is built for smashing lap times and handling any road or condition you care to throw it at.
A gunmetal SE3P Type RS was chosen as the starting base and heavily modified in the suspension department. In fact, this area of the cars developments is the most substantial. It’s not what you see but definitely what you feel. Ohlins DFV circuit spec dampers are a great place to start for cornering performance. Adding Eibach springs wound to 14kg/mm at the front and 15kg/mm at the rear just add to the cocktail. R-Magic then produced everything else that has gone underneath including the pilot control linkages, front and rear stabilizer brackets, rear subframe rigid collar set, front upper arm pillow bushes and trailing arm upper and lower linkages. It gets even more involved when you consider every single link and bush has been modified with R-Magic’s own products.
The result is the best RX-8 chassis I’ve ever driven. At speed, on bumpy and undulating backroads, the little Mazda tracked sure and true, effortlessly soaking up bumps and offering confidence under the right foot through corner entry and exit. This phenomenal suspension set-up is complimented elsewhere in the chassis.
The brakes for example are what R-Magic call their “Perfect Brake Kit”. It consists of Endless, 4-pot “Type R” front calipers mated to matching rotors and R-Magic brake ducts but at the back things remain relatively standard apart from Project Mu pads. This is confusing in the sense that there doesn’t appear to be much to the system on the surface but from the drivers seat, they are a great match for the rest of the chassis and more than enough to stop what the engine is producing. This must be what Ohara san considers the “ideal” solution to the RX-8’s stopping performance.
Housing these is a set of multi-spoke RAYS VRG2 18-inch alloys measuring 9.5J on all corners. The Federal 265/35/R18 RS-R tires these are wrapped in are literally one of the bigger surprises of this package, offering truly surprising levels of grip. They are a touch on the hard side, at least to me, and take a while to warm up.
Under the hood, you won’t find me gushing with expletives. It’s all very standard looking but as I said, this car isn’t about power; it’s about how the chassis harnesses it. That said, it wasn’t left stock, benefitting from side-porting, R-Magic exhaust manifold, sports catalyzer, triple pipe intake, R-Magic larger throttle valve, a ram pressure duct for the intake and most interestingly, an R-Magic multi coil Plasma ignition system.
This is a real benefit to the Renesis engine since the balance between a stronger spark and the mixtures of fuel and air are crucial to stable running on the track or through twists and turns. The system actually doubles spark capacity, improves power and torque across the rev range with the added benefit of reducing fuel consumption. Adding a good ignition system is an often overlooked but very important engine upgrade.
Combined with the R-Magic Titanium exhaust system and R-Magic tuned 8FIL-PRO ECU, the engine develops 242hp @ 7900rpm and 22.8Kg/m @ 4500rpm. The result is linear and progressive power throughout the rev-range and is tractable in daily driving situations.
Getting this power to the ground is a finely tuned drivetrain consisting of a single plate Exedy copper-mix clutch, R-Magic clutch lines and an R-Magic tuned ATS, Spec 4, 2-way limited slip differential with a final drive setting of 5.125.
Ohara san has two different gearbox specifications depending on whether he is running the Tsukuba 1000m (6 speed) or 2000m (5 speed) courses. Naturally the longer gearing of the 5 speed helps the RX-8 to pull some speed down the 2000m course’s lengthy back straight.
R-Magic are also no stranger to exterior modifications and this SE3P has had the works thrown at it. R-Magic are known to produce a lot of their own aerodynamic pieces for the RX-8, including the front bumper and under-spoiler assembly, carbon bonnet, side steps, adjustable rear wing and aggressive venturi-inspired rear bumper assembly.
The finishing touches are added with the R-Magic headlight “eye-lids” and Craft Square door mirrors. It’s a purposeful aero package that underscores the beautifully harnessed energy underneath. No, it’s not going set drag timing screens alight nor does it have a look for everybody but I really like the visual approach.
Inside things are more restrained, subtle and mostly standard RX-8 save for the obvious inclusion of Bride Zeta buckets, a J’s racing Personal steering wheel attached to R-magic’s new quick release steering boss and most notably, the very cool looking Greddy Intelligent Informeter touch panel system mounted to the left of the wheel. This unit monitors all vital sign particulars for the engine and drivetrain fluids and temperatures while also doubling (tripling?) as an all in one speed, rev and engine mapping readout display.
After the shoot, I found myself behind the wheel of this car, chasing Ohara san in his similarly tuned Toyota 86 through a tight and twisty downhill mountain pass leading back to the workshop. It was on those twists and turns where I truly understood what I had underneath me.
I admit it. I have also scoffed at the RX-8 for being underpowered, perhaps longing for the turbo version that never came but this car’s chassis is sublime and beautifully balanced. It’s power delivery instant and razor sharp. I quickly forgot it had less than 250hp as I hustled through the gears and rev-matched the beautiful sounding Renesis engine on downshifts trying to keep pace with Ohara san on a road I knew little of.
It was a spirited drive back and I got out positively grinning from ear to ear. My colleague Shin was also grinning like an idiot. Ohara san stepped out of the 86 and listened patiently to my animated remarks.
Ohara just smiled knowingly. As the Drift King, Keiichi Tsuchiya, famously said in response to a question about a car’s power output, “Power is nothing without control.” Ohara san and R-Magic’s RX-8 is proof the great man was absolutely spot on with that assertion.
Words and Photos – Adam Zillin
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