Photography by Carl Calvert
Anyone familiar with the import performance scene, especially on the West Coast, will immediately recognize this pristine bright red RX-7 and what it is capable of achieving. At the October Battle Of The Imports Ray Lochhead wowed the crowd by popping the front wheels of his Mazda two to three feet in the air during launches and rocketing down the 1320 with consistent nine-second runs. At the Sacramento CMI race a few weeks earlier, Ray ran his best time ever, an astonishing 9.26 seconds at 145 mph.
We last featured Ray's ride in our April 1997 issue and at that time the Mazda's quickest quarter mile was a 10.54-second effort. Since then, the RX-7 has appeared numerous times in our race coverage pages, burning up tracks from Sear's Point to Palmdale. Ray's over one-second improvement in quarter-mile time during the last 1 1/2 years is the result of a few upgraded parts, careful tweaking of the powerplant and a lot more seat time. We wanted to take one more look at Ray's RX-7, since at press time he had recently sold the vehicle and most likely will not be driving it during the '99 race season. He is currently building a new-body-style RX-7 that will be outfitted in a similar manner to the vehicle featured on these pages. He expects the FD3S, when finished, to run 8s. We'll look at Ray's new ride at the end of this article.
From 10s to 9s
Ray's 1985 RX-7 is a fairly unique vehicle to appear at import dragstrips. First off, Ray runs methanol and his 13B rotary powerplant is outfitted with a special fuel system to deal with this alternative alcoholic fuel. This system includes a 160-gph Weldon fuel pump, eight 720cc injectors and -8 fuel lines. Electromotive's TEC-II ignition and Moroso Blue Max plug wires help out in the ignition department. Some of the additional mods to the RX-7's effective, but unique, mix of parts include Koni 10-way adjustable shocks, four link rear suspension, a custom A.C.T. clutch, a Spearco air/water intercooler, AutoMeter gauges, a custom 12-point roll cage and Simpson safety harness.
However, since the last time we featured the RX-7 Ray has upgraded a few items that have landed him firmly in the 9s. These changes mainly address forced induction, shifting ability and rear traction. In its earlier stage, the Mazda was running a customized Garrett T4 turbo, however that has heen replaced with a "large" KKK turbo that is "top secret" according to Ray. The Shane Racing-tweaked custom unit puts out 21 pounds of maximum boost and utilizes a Tial wastegate. A four-speed Jerico transmission now sits in place of Ray's older Turbo 11 five-speed tranny. A Jerico unit is a purpose-built transmission for racing, utilizing a straight up and down gear pattern and straight-cut gears for easy shifts. A number of different gearings are available for the Jerico and its bullet-proof design makes it one of the top choices for serious quarter-milers. Additional drivetrain upgrades include a 35-spline Strange axle, three-inch driveshaft and Ford nine-inch rearend.
However, one of the mods that really helped Ray reach the 9s is the fact that the Mazda is now back-halved and tubbed. Back-halving involves replacing the car's frame members from just in front of the rear tires back, resulting in less weight and a usually-more-rigid structure. Incorporating tubbing with the new rear frame allows Ray to run much larger slicks, in this case 29x12 Goodyears wrapped by 15x12 Weld Drag Lite wheels. Rear suspension is a four-link set-up. The result is an RX-7 that hooks up much better than Ray's original ride which ran 24.5inch 13x8 slicks. In the front, the car runs on 15x4-inch Goodyears wrapped around Weld Drag Lite wheels. Stopping power is provided by Wilwood four-piston brakes. When Ray last put the Mazda on a Dynojet dynamometer, horsepower checked in at 561 ponies--not bad for a 79-cubic-inch rotary engine.
Ray prides himself on the fact that his Mazda looks almost stock from the outside and runs deep into the 9s. The RX-7 utilizes a stock full steel body, with all glass windows and still weighs a relatively-heavy 2450 pounds. The three coats of PPG Porsche Red paint ensure that onlookers will have no trouble noticing the car as it blasts down the 1320. At the October 3-4 Battle Of The Imports the crowds definitely noticed Ray's RX-7 as he was lifting the wheels off the ground all day long at launch and during one run the wheelie resulted in the car traveling the first 30 feet or so at a 45-degree angle. "I thought the car was going over!" reports Ray. During his 9.55-second run at Battle the crowd erupted with one of the loudest cheers the Turbo staff has ever encountered at the Palmdale race--clearly this car is a real crowd pleaser.
Ray races under the moniker Shane Racing and he runs a shop for Mazdas in Bentwood, California under the same name. "We do all types of work on Mazda rotaries," says Ray. "Motor building, turbos, chassis and suspension, along with full tube frame work. From radical to stock RX-7s." Ray has been drag racing since 1989, when he used to campaign a 1989 Dunebuggy with an '89 rotary Turbo II engine. "A very scary ride," he says. "It was a 1200-pound car with 400 horsepower that went every direction but straight!"
Unfortunately, at least for import race fans, Ray's '85 RX-7 has been recently sold to another party and we will probably not see Ray behind the wheel of this wheelie-popping wild Mazda. Before you reach for your hankies, however, Ray is building a new Mazda that should exceed the feats of his older car. The new ride is a '95 RX7 that will run the same type of 13B Cosmo motor with a Jerico transmission. "It will be the exact set-up as the '85," Ray explains."It should be running low nines or high eights. With nitrous it should be able to run 8.70s." Ray reports that the new car should be ready for the next Battle Of The Imports in Palmdale, scheduled for late February/early March.
In the meantime, the memories of Ray flashing down the track after a spectacular
wheel-standing launch is still strong in our minds. With a best e.t. of 9.26 seconds
this RX-7, as far as we know, is the quickest full-steel-bodied RX-7 doorslammer in the
world. What a way to finish with his old ride and start fresh with his '95 Mazda. Good
luck Ray on your way to the 8s!
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