Buckley runs his own race in battle against the giants

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Michael Buckley might be the drag racing equivalent of David taking on Goliath at this weekend’s 50th annual Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex, but for the Mazda RX7 driver it’s just another race.

The Westernationals is a unique event on the WA drag racing calendar for a number of reasons, and among them is a change in the way the local brackets are run to match up to the national Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series national championship.

For racers such as Buckley, who ordinarily competes in Super Comp with his RR/SM-class Mazda, that means his turbocharged, 1.3 litre engine will be taking on giant eight-litre, supercharged Hemis. But thanks to an extensive handicapping system based off class national records, the game is more even than at first sight.

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NitroSlam! at Perth Motorplex
Image by Phil Luyer.

“The cars that I’m up against aren’t my biggest concern,” he said. “I’m there just trying to get the goal I have set for the car, which is running a 6sec. pass over the 200mph barrier (321kmh).”

With personal bests of 7.18sec. and 194mph (312.20kmh), Buckley is within sight of his target. Finding those remaining fractions of a second at the Westernationals would make him the first driver with a rotary engine to run those times and speeds in Western Australia.

“We have a Mazda RX7 Series 3 running a billet 13B semi peripheral port engine, but what makes it different to others is the Garrett 94mm turbocharger with Pro-J intake manifold, holding 12 2200cc fuel injectors needed for the power level required. I’ve also installed a Liberty five-speed clutchless transmission and the new Haltech Nexus ECU to run the show and collect all the data.”

Drag racing has many paths to take for those wishing to run fast. Buckley’s satisfaction with his racing operation comes from overcoming the capacity deficit of the Mazda rotary design, which forgoes pistons for rotors.

“I prefer the rotaries simply because of the amount of power than be achieved from their size. We can still run higher boost levels than the 50psi we have currently, and there’s more weight we can get out of the car yet too. We’re hoping for that 6sec. time card and 200mph at the Westernationals, but time will tell.”

The 50th Annual Westernationals takes place this Saturday and Sunday, February 27 and 28, at Perth Motorplex. The event features a round of the national Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, as well as the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam Series, the WA Nitro Bike Series, and Nitro Funny Car exhibition runs.

Qualifying begins from 11am Saturday and 11.30am Sunday, with the main show commencing from 5.30pm each night. For more information, visit www.motorplex.com.au.

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