It’s the black Bat that came back: we take an up close and personal look at Steve Rossen’s Pro Import RX-7.
What a pass. Steve Rossen has just had the fastest drive of his life. Suddenly it all goes wrong. The car bucks, Steve struggles to regain control. The back end whips around. The safety barrier whizzes past in a blur, barely visible through the shattered windscreen.
Steve Rossen’s immaculate jet black Series 6 RX-7 has just completed a 9.18-second pass, but in a fraction of that time the car is reduced to scrap metal.
In the pits Steve’s wife, Alice, is ashen faced. Jumping into a tow vehicle, she speeds to the scene of the crash, almost causing her own accident on the way. Upon reaching the vehicle the worry eases as Steve climbs unscathed from the battered shell.
The crash, a wake-up call to the real risks of drag racing for the FC-Datalogit team, had taken them back to square one. But showing the type of commitment that had got them this far, they wouldn’t be out of the game for long.
In terms of getting back on track, Steve’s deep knowledge and long experience of rotaries helps, of course. Way, way back in the day, a mate had an RX-2.
Steve helped out on it, thought it was cool and, later, bought one of his own. When that car was stolen, Steve picked up a Series 4 RX-7 and discovered that what he liked most was the handling. He liked it so much, in fact, that he bought a Series 6 RX-7 without even driving it, working on the assumption that, as a newer model, it must be even better.
It was that car Steve took to his first drag event, in 2000. By the end of his first meet, Steve had an 11.5-second time slip. The car’s only known mod was a Power FC — which is how that longstanding relationship began.
From there on in, Steve had the bug, the urge to go faster and faster each time he went to the strip. Eventually he was running in the nines.
There are two further things of note here. First, the Series 6 Steve first raced in 2000, and continued to race until March 2009, was the RX-7 he crashed.
Second, it was still fully road registered. The FC-Datalogit team, a crew with a great culture that was accumulated as times dropped, has shown that with the right attitude, a bit of time and a bit of money, it’s possible to race at an elite level.
However, the money and time needed to build a Pro Import machine from stock are immense. After looking into every possible avenue, buying a proven, race-ready shell and adding the salvaged motor from the wrecked car was the cheapest and quickest way to get racing again.
As if by fate, the ex-Tony Bateson RX-7 Heaven drag car was up for sale at the time.
“Acquiring Tony’s car was logical, as we didn’t want to build again from scratch and we wanted to be racing the ’09/’10 season,” says Steve.
Over the next eight months the team knuckled down, stripping every nut, bolt and panel off the shell, and making a special effort to shed heft.
The goal was to get the shell down to the minimum weight for the Pro Import division, so all floor panels were taken out and remade, while a custom driveshaft tunnel was fabricated using special DIY methods by FC-Datalogit crew members Paul and Andy. Even if the new car made no more power than the one it was replacing, it would be considerably faster.
Luckily, it makes more power, too.
The 13B engine was the only major component transplanted from the older car. However, it has been subject to a series of experiments courtesy of the FC-Datalogit team. In truth, some have been more successful than others. A big single turbo formula was toyed with at one stage, but Steve admits it never quite worked. Back to the twin turbo.
Steve says the best gains were achieved with bridgeporting, which, in combination with a couple of 35/82R turbos, earned the setup a good number of extra ponies.
All that power was fine tuned by Steve using FC-Datalogit software developed in-house. “Why pay someone else to do it when I can give it a go myself?” he reasons. The result of all that work is an impressive best of 8.575 at 251kph on 22psi boost.
Although the tweaking process continues, the car has had much more done to it than the team ever envisaged. “Initially we thought we would just slap some paint on it and put our engine in, but we got carried away,” Alice admits.
She’s not kidding. In her defense, the car looks amazing, and the engine bay is impressive in its simplicity.
The team’s hard work paid off at the 2010 4&Rotary Nationals, where the RX-7 claimed awards for best rotary race car and best race car overall. The Outlaw Drags saw more honours, for best-presented vehicle and crew.
A genuinely fast race car that’s pretty enough to win show awards? That’s the stuff of fantasy — except that this time it’s real.
1993 Mazda RX-7 Series 6 – Specifications
Engine: 13B-REW SCR 2mm apex, side & corner seals, Series 6 block, bridgeport, 2x K&N 4-inch air filters, custom RSL Y pipe, alloy elbow, Series 6 throttle body & upper intake manifold, 2x Garrett 35/82R turbos, 2x Tial 38mm wastegates, GSport prototype lower intake manifold, GReddy BOV, 10x 1680cc Indy Blue injectors, Aeroquip fittings, StartLite hose, custom RSL in-tank fuel filter, custom SX fuel filter/distribution block, Aeromotive mechanical fuel pump & regulator, M&W Pro Drag4 CDI with custom Power FC interface, Magnacore leads, NGK SD11a spark plugs, Series 6 ignition pickups, 2x 3-inch exhaust & 2-inch custom RSL wastegate pipe, MX5 radiator, Davies Craig EWP, custom thermostat housing, A’PEXi Power FC with FC-Datalogit
enhancements, custom wiring loom
Driveline: GF-5R G-Force clutchless torsion bar gearbox, magnesium gearbox case, Mark Williams yoke, McLeod Drag twin-plate clutch, 5.1 Strange 9-inch 35-spline axle diff
Suspension: Custom front Koni shocks, QA1 rear shocks, custom lightweight steering column, Borgeson aluminium universal joints, chromoly shaft
Brakes: Front Wilwood Dynalite single floater front callipers, Wilwood ventilated front rotors, custom mounting brackets, Stock RX-7 Series 4 rear callipers, RX-7 Series 4 rear rotors
Wheels and Tyres: Gibson billet aluminium 2.8kg spindle mount alloy (front), Goodyear Front Runner 26×4.5/15-inch, Goodyear Eagle Dragway special 31.5×14/15 (Rear)
Exterior: One-piece nose cone, lightened standard steel hatch, lightened doors, lightweight Por15 Black respray by
Moselle Panel & Paint, tube frame, polycarb window, standard Series 6 rear tail lights, standard Series 6 spoiler with adjustable spacers
Interior: Custom re-trimmed Racetech seat, FCD 1.0 steering wheel, FCD 1.0 gearknob, DashDaq digital dash with custom FC-Datalogit interface and onboard SD card data logging, manual regulator boost controller, 2 Innovate LC-1 O2 sensors, 2x EGT K-type sensors, button-activated line locker, custom alloy dashboard, custom drive shaft tunnel, Wilwood pedal box
Chassis: ¾ chassis tube front end, full NZDRA rollcage with extra centre roll over bar, custom 4-link rear end, chromoly rod ends, chromoly sway bar, alloy engine plate, alloy firewall
Performance: 0-400m: 8.575 @ 251kph on 22psi boost
Steve and Alice Rosen – Driver Profile
Age: Steve – 38, Alice – Younger than Steve
Occupation: Steve – design engineer, Alice – team principal
Previously Owned Cars: RX-2, 2x Series 4 RX-7s & 2x Series 6 RX-7s
Dream Car: 6-second RX-7 drag car
Length of ownership: 13 months
Thank you: Truby, Andy, John, Mel, Paul, Tyrone – Race Crew, Glen @ TaylorMade Systems, Chris @ CageFX, Ronnie @ RSL, Steve & Team @ Moselle Paint, Craig & Charlie @ Alert Motorsport Steve @ Motorsport Engineering, Kent @ SpeedSource, Phil @ BNT Alert Anodising, Monaghan Sheetmetals, Saeco Bearings, Jimmy P, Joe Kyle, Nyle Buckley, Tony Markovina, Paul Weir, Race FX
Words: Falgoon Patel, Photos: Adam Croy
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