NZ Performance Car - - Meeting Leadfoot -

“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.

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