WORKS RWD RX-7
“Rhys [Rod’s son] now owns this car; he found in Belgium [in 2012]. I ran the Scottish Rally [Championship] and [the] RAC Rally in 1985 in it. I went over and drove for Mazda Europe. [The RAC Rally] … was an interesting event. There was a lot of pressure on that event. Mazda Europe was trying to convince Mazda Japan that this was its Group B car, that 2WD was OK, and that 4WD was not necessary. I had already been in 4WD for two years. Mazda Japan told Europe that it wanted me to drive it. So, I went there and ended up beating their team car — shit, it was hard work: 2WD, it was hopeless. I came ninth overall, we were one of only two RWD cars in the top 10. Shit, it was hopeless,” Rod remembered.
A works-built RX-7, it runs a similar dry-sumped MFR 13B PP and MFR five-speed as the 4WD car, but with the block only sitting 10mm back from factory and with an uncut firewall. The widebody is a European-spec kit including the moulded six-light front bar and fibre-reinforced-plastic (FRP) doors, although, surprisingly, Rod’s own 4WD RX-7 (first gen) is lighter. The wheels are 15-inch Enkei items, and, like a 4WD car, it runs Mazda gauges, including a 12,000rpm tacho.
“Rhys found this car and asked what I thought about buying it. I said, ‘You know what, it’s got a good story behind it’. [Back in 1985], although it was hard to go back to 2WD, I really did enjoy driving it, despite the situation. The German team was horrible to me. We went to Donington track and they told me they had no race tyres, so I had to run on forest tyres. I beat the team driver on forest tyres, and my navigator says to me, ‘You keep that up, and we are going to die’. We came in and the tyres were absolutely shagged. But they told us that we had to stay on those tyres. By then, I just wouldn’t communicate with them. The co-driver came back to me and said ‘I have told them we are withdrawing if [they] … don’t give us new tyres’. So, we eventually got new tyres. The entire rally went that way for us.”
After importing the car to New Zealand, Rhys had it registered, and ran it in the Silver Fern Rally.