NZ Performance Car - - Back Issue Review | Next Month -

Law­ton Rotorsport’s Stu Law­ton and his ro­tarycon­verted Mazda 323s were a main­stay within the New Zealand im­port drag scene through­out the 2000s. The zero to 400 dash was Law­ton’s poi­son, and his Pro Im­port SP20B hatch, which dropped on the cover back in ’ 05 when the model was only three years old, was a huge step for­ward for the lo­cal im­port drag scene. The full­tube 323 was built by Stu and a hand­ful of his mates, and has run a mul­ti­tude of engine and driv­e­line com­bi­na­tions over the years, start­ing with a Cosmo 20B and TH350 auto. It ran into the 10s straight off the trailer, and was soon into the nines, with a best of 9.86 for the combo.

Although the 20B was quick for the time, most will re­mem­ber the 323 for the engine that came next, an an­gry turbo quad-ro­tor with Lenco trans, which quickly dipped the car into the eights — where it sat for four meet­ings — and then a small ad­just­ment on the clutch pushed Stu into the sevens at the 2008 Rotary Sum­mer Drags, when he ran a 7.86 and 7.92 back to back.

In 2010 Stu de­cided to re­tire the big block and try push­ing a 13B with a big sin­gle turbo. The car also made a switch from a hatch to a Famila sedan shell. With only a ba­sic Cosmo engine, as Stu called it, the 323 ran easy eights, which was enough to con­vince him that 13B was the way, and a more serous pack­age was built. It be­came a con­stant seven-sec­ond run­ner with a best of 7.54. In 2011 the sedan shell re­ceived a new chro­moly chas­sis with a bil­let 13B, and the PB fur­ther im­proved to a 7.50 at 268kph. Sadly, in 2013 — fol­low­ing a mas­sive re­build for the car — Stu ex­pe­ri­enced a huge roll-over at Master­ton Mo­tor­plex, an in­ci­dent he is lucky to have walked away from, but his Kiwi Pro Im­port icon was all but de­stroyed.

This spelled the early re­tire­ment from the Pro ranks for Stu and his team, made up of some of the most ded­i­cated folk in the Pro Im­port field. Week in, week out they towed the car the 6.5-hour jour­ney from Para­pa­raumu to run at Meremere.

Stu says his best mem­o­ries from those days are lin­ing up Brent Cur­ran at the 2011 and 2012 NZDRA Sport Comp fi­nals where, although Cur­ran took the win both times, Stu hit his per­sonal best, “Sav­ing the best for last”.

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