Congratulations to David on the selection of his MX-5 as the August MX-5 of the Month!
Well as does happen in rally I hit a tree in my old car rather hard. I bent my Isuzu Gemini beyond repair. My mind immediately started to wonder what am I could drive now. I love driving rear wheel drive and I like the smaller under two litre class.
I started to think about all the rear wheel drive under two litres available. I did not want to drive a Datsun or an Escort - Too common. I wanted to be different, I wanted to drive something a bit more modern. After a bit of thinking I was down to two different cars: the Toyota MR2 and the Mazda MX-5.
The MR2 was a mid engine vehicle so it could be very tail happy on the dirt, so the decision was made to purchase a 1996 NA8 from a guy who races them at the track. The car was purchased in 06 and it was kept very very quiet, I did not tell anybody what I was building.
The build took about 6 months of long nights after work to get the car ready for the 2007 season. The cage was a custom built job from Ray at Fabrications and the cams by Clive Cams. Apart from this the suspension was going to be the issue. I became very friendly with The MX5 Factory who thought I was nuts trying to dirt rally an MX5. Dick, the owner, said " I've never seen that done before".
I rummaged through a big pile of shock absorbers and found some Bilsteins which Dick donated. Straight away I took them to Bilstein experts the "Baker Brothers" who adjusted the bump and rebound characteristics for off road/rally use. I decided to go with King springs and adjustable collars at the start with 300lb in the front and 250lb in the rear. It did not work - too stiff - so back to basics with standard spring platforms with 1 inch spacers underneath for ground clearance and slightly stiffer than standard springs, 230lb front and 140lb rears.
The interior is standard rally trim, well, there isn't much. The dash and door trims, the usual extra guages and the navigators Terratrip rally computer. A Terraphone helmet intercom was added along with a smaller sized steering wheel.
The race alignment was done by Craig at Trackside Race and Rally Tyre Service, who had aligned many MX5's but never for the dirt. The right tyre choice and we were almost ready.
The last drama was protecting the underside of the car, It took ages to custom fabricate the front and rear bash plates to protect the motor and the diff, but finaly the car was ready for its first race.
As to be expected the first race was wet, very very wet and I was getting used to the car, on stage two I slid off the road and got stuck. But I did not give up on my Idea I kept on racing and we kept on getting faster. After I did a massive nose scrape in the car after hitting a wash out on a track I lost all four of my lightforce 240 blitz driving lights, so I had to come up with another plan. What about a bonnet pod? I rang a friend who lent me a mould for a Escort and we took a mould from the nose cone on the MX5 and we mashed the two shapes together to come up with the shell of a bonnet light pod. I rang Darren from Kyneton Auto Electrics and he supplied me with X4 Cibie Oscar SC Pod lights with HID Kits. Wow what a difference HID makes, smaller lights with more output.
We completed many races in the Victorian Club Rally Series with only one DNF when the plug came off the cam angle sensor. The most memorable was the time we finished 5th outright against 55 other cars of all makes and models: Lancer Evo's, Subaru WRX's, Datsuns, Escorts etc.
There have been a few small incidents. Scrapes with shrubs, whollops into creek beds, bent exhausts and blown out tyres. But that's what makes rallying so fuch fun. The photos tell the story.
Dave - Busty Gates Rally Sport
Will you be next?