Spotlight: Michael Kuhn’s 2004 Mazda RX-8

Photo by Jeff Narus

To start off the week we’re featuring a modified 2004 Mazda RX-8, built by owner Michael Kuhn. When I think of the Mazda RX-8 I think of a balanced sports car for the masses. From handling to braking to comfort the Mazda RX-8 does everything well. Then there’s Michael Kuhn’s RX-8 which does things exceptionally well.Story below by Michael Kuhn. Photos by Jeff Narus.

“I’ve owned my Mazda RX-8 for about four years now and what a ride it has been. When I first bought the car I had no intention of racing, I was just interested in the looks and loved the idea of the rotary engine. It wasn’t until I joined the RX-8 forums that I started modifying.”

Michael Kuhn's Mazda RX-8 - photo by Jeff Narus

“The first modification I made was a set of clear turn signals – just about everyone’s first mod for the Mazda RX-8. During the first year I owned the car I did a lot of talk about going to the track but never knew of any organization to get signed up. I was actually at a car show in the summer of 2008 when a man named Steve Shin, owner of a 2005 Mitsubishi Evolution approached me with a flier about a local autocross. At first I reacted like most other people do when they hear about autocross. The thought of driving around cones in a parking lot just seemed boring to me. Just like others, I wanted to get out on a real track and travel over 100 MPH. Then I remembered the BMW Racing School I attended when I was 15 in South Carolina and remembered how much fun I had – so I decided to sign up. ”

Michael Kuhn's Mazda RX-8 - photo by Jeff Narus

“I was instantly hooked. In 2009, I won the Sports Car Club of America’s STU-class Championship for the Central Carolinas Region and in 2010 I completed in the SCCA Solo National Tour. I took two 3rd place finishes – one at the Southern States Championships in Blytheville, AR and the other at the Northern States Championships in Peru, IN.”

Michael Kuhn's Mazda RX-8 - photo by Jeff Narus

“Throughout the past year the development of my car has drastically changed. I began with Megan racing coilovers then changed to Stance GR+ and when I decided to get serious, forked out the money for some double adjustable Moton shocks with Hypercoil springs. I upgraded to a Racing Brake 13″ 4-piston brake kit with two-piece light weight rotors, saving 25lbs altogether. I added two bucket racing seats, a Corbeau FX1 Pro for the driver and a Bride Low Max for the passenger. The last thing I added to try to eliminate some of the oversteer problems I had was an APR GTC-200 rear wing. It worked so well it drastically changed the characteristics of the car. It went from having way to much oversteer, to understeer that was just no fun. After the addition of the OEM rear sway bar (I had been running with no rear sway) the car transitioned like a champ.”

Michael Kuhn's Mazda RX-8 at SCCA Pro Solo Nationals- photo by Bryan Heitkotter

“This year I will be in the hunt to be a National Champion in STX class at the Tirerack 2011 SCCA National Championship. For future mods, I would like to do some more customer tuning with my Cobb access port. Right now I am just using their base tune. I may work on additional weight reduction and experiment with different spring rates and front sway bars.”

“Looking back at it there is only one thing I would have changed and that’s to buy a car without a sunroof. Anyone taller than me, 5’8″, has serious trouble sitting in the drivers seat with a helmet on. My model RX-8 is the GT which is 100 lbs heavier than non-sunroof models, meaning my competitors all have a slight advantage on me.” – Michael Kuhn

Michael Kuhn’s current modifications list
Suspension:
Moton double adjustable shocks
HyperCoil Springs
Racing Beat front sway bar

Wheels:
18×9.5 +45 Enkei RPF-1 with 275/35/18 Nitto NT05
18×9 +35 Volk RE-30 with 265/35/18 Hankook RS-3
18×9 +25 Advan RS-D with 265/35/18 Dunlop Star Specs

Brakes:
Racing Brake 13″ four-piston front brake kit w/two piece rotors
Hawk HP+ brake pads

Body:
MazdaSpeed front bumper and side skirts
Seibon CF hood
APR GTC-200 wing with 2.5″ risers

Performance:
Borla catback exhaust
Custom midpipe with Davesport 100CPI cat and Vibrant resonator
Racing Beat intake
Cobb AccessPort base tune

Interior:
Bride Low Max passenger seat
Corbeau FX1 Pro driver seat
Rotary Rasp footwell lights

Well said, Michael! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us and good luck in 2011!