Having been out of the seat for nearly a decade, Sam Khamis made a return to the track in a simple yet effective 323 built to run single-digit passes
Stuff illogical amounts of power into the smallest and lightest chassis possible, then hammer the loud pedal while wrestling the steering wheel, being blinded by tyre smoke, suffocated by raw exhaust fumes, and deafened by an unmuffled exhaust. Drag racing is without a doubt the most violent and intoxicating of all motorsports, one that turns men into gladiators, if only for 10 seconds or less. Few personal pursuits in life are as thrilling, and even fewer can hold a candle to how addictive the constant pursuit of lower ETs and faster trap speeds becomes. Once it’s under your skin, there is no hope; you’re a lifer, your every second thought becomes the pursuit of speed, and even a decade out of the driver seat will not lessen the hold it has on you.
From start to finish, the build took six months, and, on its first full pass, Sam dipped into the nines. The current PB is a 9.68 at 139mph (224kph)
Proof of this is South Aucklander Sam Khamis, who made his return to the driver seat over the summer just been, piloting a simple but very effective little Mazda 323, which delivered an exciting learning curve with plenty of close calls to keep him and his team on their toes.
Sam got his start in the sport like many before him — running his streeter at the likes of Night Speed Drag Wars. He was one of the first to dip his Evo into the 10s, but as it does, life got in the way, and racing was put on the back burner for the better part of a decade. Cars have always been a big part of his equation, though, and he maintained a big interest in them, especially the rotary side of the sport, as he spent time immersed in the Aussie scene.
But back in New Zealand again — mid way through 2016, Sam decided it was time to return to driving, so he purchased a rough-around-the-edges Mazda 323 that had previously raced to a best of 10.3. Powered by a 13B turbo, it was a simple set-up but the perfect base on which to cut his teeth in the high-stakes world that is rear-wheel-drive drag racing — a world away from his 10-second 4WD Evo.
He set a goal — to debut the 323 at the V 4&Rotary Nationals — which led to a solid three-month thrash of late nights and even longer weekends getting the 323 ready to race. The block, a bridgeported Series 4 13B turbo, is the only piece of the old set-up that remains. In went a new MicroTech LT-10c, a full wiring loom, an E85-capable fuel system, and a bigger Garrett T51R with that oh-so-rad four-inch exhaust that exits directly out of the front guard. To back the 13B, there’s a GF5-R Jerico dogbox with gate shifter and Tilton twin plate. It’s a fairly bulletproof box, one that Sam says is key to the car’s current success.
The monster of a Garrett T51R sits right behind the headlight and exits directly out of the front guard
Sadly, turning up to the track with a fully-fledged drag car and no race licence doesn’t go too well. Sam was unable to run at the nats, but, a week later, he started the licensing procedure that sees you run a handful of single passes, building up to a full run, all under the watchful eye of an official. As soon as the green light was given for a full pass, Sam eclipsed the 323’s previous PB and dipped into the nines — with a best of 9.86 at 139mph (224kph).
It’s an achievement that wasn’t without its challenges, considering just how simple the 323 is underneath. It’s un-tubbed, with a Hilux locked diff, factory four-link, and essentially factory shocks with Cobra lowering springs. And it’s been the 60-foot times that have suffered. So far, nothing is adjustable, and, now the season is done and dusted, the boys at M&M Racing will work on correcting that.
We won’t go into extreme detail, but, by the time you read this, none of what you see here will be anywhere near the chassis. The car will essentially be gutted from headlight to tail light, all in the name of lower ETs and higher trap speeds. But it’s also about making the car a much safer death machine. As you can imagine, in the state pictured here, with 425kW feeding to the 26x8.5-inch slicks, Sam’s had his fair share of those lump-in-ya-throat moments that his team has seemed more worried about than him. “It never seems as out of control as it looks from the outside. It’s not until the boys show me video afterwards that I see just how out of shape I got. They are especially bad at Meremere,” Sam explains.
Sam swaps gears in his Jerico GF5-R dogbox via a gate shifter. The gearbox is still H-pattern, although you simply click the shifter back and forth to work your way up the gears. Flat shifting will be installed during the rebuild
But it’s not just the underpinnings that will be finessed over the coming months; the exterior will also get some much-needed attention to tidy up areas such as the rear quarters, which were cut to allow slick clearance. There’ll be nothing too overboard — it is, after all, a race car, and, for these boys, lower ETs rank much higher on the priority list than flashy paint ever will.
As to exactly when the little yellow 323 will return to the strip, we’re not sure, but it’s a date we await as eagerly as Sam does: what we can promise is that this wait will be a lot shorter than his last decade-long hiatus.
Location: South Auckland
Build time: Six months
Length of ownership: One year
Thanks: Mazin from M&M Racing; Lil Abner’s Takeaways; Steve Murch at MSE; Driveshaft Specialists; Din at Spec2; Jon at MicroTech; and all the boys who have helped with the build — Oshana and Wail Solaka, Biggie, Marvy, and Steven
1979 Mazda 323
ENGINE: Series 4 RX-7 13B turbo, 1300cc, twin-rotor
BLOCK: Bridgeported plates, stud kit, S4 rotors
INTAKE: S4 intake, custom elbow, three-inch intercooler piping, 100mm thick intercooler
EXHAUST: Four-inch stainless side-exit
TURBO: Garrett T51R
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart Power-Gate 60
BOV: TiAL 50mm
FUEL: Dual Bosch 044 main pumps, Aeromotive fuel regulator, dual Aeromotive filters, Fragola post-pump filter, Aeroflow fuel rails, modified fuel tank with dual -10 feeds, Bosch intake pump
IGNITION: Crane capacitor-discharge, MSD leads, NGK plugs
ECU: MicroTech LT-10c
COOLING: Fenix alloy radiator, dual 12-inch fans
EXTRA: IHRA–spec alloy undertray, custom catch-can, custom breather, boost tap
GEARBOX: Jerico GF5-R, five-speed, gate shifter
CLUTCH: Tilton 7.23-inch twin-plate
DIFF: Toyota Hilux (4.5 ratio)
EXTRA: Billet yoke driveshaft
STRUTS: (F) custom adjustable, Cobra springs, (R) Bilstein shocks, Cobra springs
BRAKES: (F) S5 RX-7 calipers, S5 RX-7 rotors, (R) Mitsubishi VR4 calipers, VR4 rotors
EXTRA: IHRA-spec six-point roll cage
PAINT: Custom lemon yellow
ENHANCEMENTS: Radiused rear guards
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
INSTRUMENTATION: MicroTech Pro Dash with data logging
FUEL: Gull E85
ET: 9.86s at 139mph (224kph)
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car magazine issue No. 247. You can graba print copy of the mag at the link below: