Forgive me father for I have sinned; I’d almost completely forgotten how obnoxiously loud and powerful Mazda rotary engines can be.
I’m not saying I’d forgotten they existed altogether, even if it has been over 15 years since Mazda produced a rotary-powered vehicle the world cared about. Now, before you light up the comments section to remind me of the lacklustre RX-8 which I’ve almost completely omitted from my memory, take a deep breathe and ask yourself if the model was a truly worthy successor to the amazing RX-7 dynasty? Or even to the wider family of potent machines before that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Long gone are the days of being temporarily deafened when the traffic lights turn green, or being woken from a deep slumber at 3:00am by a turbo bridge-port 13B pulling sixteen trillion RPM. Jokes about changing apex seals and oil more often than filling up with petrol have almost been swallowed up by the sands of time.
The death of the rotary street scene in Australia was ironically slow and silent. It wasn’t until years after the Capellas, Savannas and majority of RX-7s had completely disappeared from our streets that I can remember really taking note of their absence.
Once I’d had the epiphany, I was sad. What happened to Australia’s rotary scene? Perhaps all those rotary jokes were closer to home than I’d imagined.
When I heard that Rotary Revival #4 was taking place a mere half hour from home at Sydney Motorsport Park, the home of WTAC, I was quick to block out the entire day and investigate the state of the scene.
Seconds after arriving at SMSP’s familiar entrance, and even before I make it through the gates, it became ear-burstingly clear that the Australian rotary scene is far from dead. Parking up and closing the driver’s door of my Evolution IX, a familiar and obnoxious BRAP BRAP BRAP consumed the ambient noise around me as a ported 13B fired into life and settled into an aggressive idle.
One thing I instantly noticed as I made my way through pit lane was an almost complete absence of RX-8s, confirming that my personal views aren’t to dissimilar to the broader community. I’ve never known how to feel about the car; one half of me applauds Mazda for building something unique and quirky with undercurrents of sportiness, while the other half is left feeling apathetic and confused by the mixed messages the conservative freestyle-doored coupe sent to consumers. Here’s to hoping that one day we’ll have a focused and worthy RX-7 replacement.
The other main point to take in from a quick walk around was just how many outstanding pieces of Wankel history were on display and ready to carve up the Northern Circuit. Over 250 cars entered the event and more than 1000 spectators made their way through the gates.
The Rotary Revival crowd spent most of their time lining track fences admiring the spectacle. Wave after wave of what sounded like angry hornets ensured there was always something to look at and listen to.
Those fortunate enough to know an owner were able to enjoy the action from on-board during the many cruise sessions. The Revival is one of the few events that open the track up to passengers; of course the laps are slower and more controlled than an actual racing, but most sessions seemed to peppered with the occasional, small ‘accidental skid’.
I was fortunate enough to score a passenger ride with Mark in his mildly modified, Australian-delivered Series 7 FD3S RX-7. Sydney Motosport Park’s straight was buzzing with excitement as the entire field of entrants lined up for one giant cruise session.
While the top speed was governed by a safety car it didn’t seem to bother anyone; drivers were too busy enjoying the freedom of a closed road and no threat of defect notices from the police. Wherever you looked, cars were packed full of massive smiles. It was easy to get lost in the enthusiasm of the parade laps from Mark’s passenger seat.
For those that weren’t satisfied with casual happy laps the day was punctuated with a few timed race sessions for the more competitive entrants. Those addicted to straight lines had the opportunity to drag race up Sydney Motorsport Park’s main straight.
In typical Australian fashion, the event closed out with a burnout session against a low setting sun. Is there really any better way to bring an end to a day at the track?
The Brothers Of Brap
While we may never relive those glorious days of industrial deafness on every street corner, the devoted community of Australian rotary enthusiasts will ensure their loud legacy is never forgotten completely. Traditions, interests and knowledge will be passed down the line and a younger generation will inherit their family heirlooms by the way of car keys.
The pit garages were filled with groups of mates and young families. Cars were surrounded by mixed generations working hard and keeping the rotary dream alive.
And for all those who are keen on keeping tradition, there are the enthusiasts that thrive on finding new ways to inject life and variety into the scene.
The level of enthusiasm on display by the Mazda rotary fans exceeds most other automotive circles. These guys and girls are rotor-mad and love nothing more (except their cars) than to share that passion.
Sydney’s Rotary Revival renewed my faith in Australia’s rotary scene; it’s still very much alive and kicking, even if it isn’t trying to race me at every set of traffic lights anymore.