They say rotary engines are notoriously unreliable, not the one in John Polkinghorne’s Mazda RX-2!


Drag Challenge’s only rotary this year – in fact it was the only rotary in Street Machine Drag Challenge’s three-year history – is John Polkinghorne’s Mazda RX-2. John, who’s from Shepparton in northern Vic, has owned the Mazda for around 25 years and ran it as a rally car… until he rolled it in the dirt.

Mazda -rx -2-drag -challenge -4After that, the little Mazda sat around in the back yard for 10 years until John – who crewed for Harry’s green ‘POP’ HQ Holden SS at the first and second Drag Challenge – decided he wanted to have a crack at Drag Challenge for himself.

Mazda -rx -2-rear -drag -challenge“I bought another Mazda, a Capella, to use for donor parts to fix this one,” John explained. “I wanted to get it back on the road, firstly, and to do Drag Challenge.”

With its subtle and timeless champagne paint, the result is a gorgeous example of rotary goodness but even though he began building the Mazda early this year, the car was completed with just hours to spare.

Mazda -rx -2-engine“We put the engine in it on Friday and got it registered at Broadmeadows at 8.30 this morning!” he told us at Calder Park on the Monday of Drag Challenge. “It’s only done 200km!”

Mazda -rx -2-rear --2drag -challengeBuilt by Melbourne’s Pro Maz, the engine is a Microtech-injected 13B turbo tied to an also-Mazda five-speed gearbox. Behind that is a Toyota Hilux diff with 4.3 gears between EL Falcon disc brakes, back-up for the later-model Mazda RX-7 front brake transplant. The Mazda’s suspension retains the factory four-coil layout but it’s tightened with a set of adjustable coil-overs. The car wore Mickey Thompsons all week – track and transit.

Mazda -rx -2-drag -challenge -3Although he’s been around club-level rallying and motorsport for years, Drag Challenge was John’s first attempt at straight-line work and he had his son Lee along, too. The little Mazda ran 12.2s and 12.3s all week – despite a slipping clutch.

Mazda -rx -2-john -polkinghome“It started slipping on Monday morning so we had to nurse it all week,” John said. “Apart from that, we had a great time staying in motels and having steaks and a nice beer each evening!”