The fact that the internal combustion engine seems to be on its way out only motivates die-hard enthusiasts to push the bar higher in their gas-fed adventures. And today’s example comes from the Wankel side, with Kiwi pro drifter Mad Mike Whiddett having just announced a five-rotor engine, which could be a world first.
After German mechanical engineer Felix Heinrich Wankel introduced the rotary engine back in 1954, as an alternative to the piston engine, many carmakers started experimenting with it.
The rotary engine comes with fewer vibrations than a reciprocating one, while being two to three times lighter and smaller, more rev-friendly, and offering a more linear power delivery. Alas, it also comes with drawbacks in terms of efficiency, emissions, and maintenance.
One by one, automakers gave up on the rotary engine, but not Mazda. The Japanese not only offered Wankel engines in their cars for decades (up to 2012 for powering the wheels and currently as a range extender for EVs), but also won the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991 with the iconic 787B, whose shriek will forever be remembered.
And, if we come back to that list of pros and cons, we’ll notice that rotary engines are perfect for drifting, where none of its issues are that important, while the linear power delivery gives the driver a greater degree of sliding control and the soundtrack grabs attention like nothing else.
Mad Mike loves Mazdas and Wankels
Michael Whiddett, on his real name, is well aware of all this, which is why the drifting veteran has a special relationship with these engines. And while he’s been using Mazdas for racing since 2007, with certain exceptions such as his Lamborghini Huracan, he also builds amazing street cars of the sort.
Presently, the New Zealander is working on a 2022 Mazda3 with a turbocharged quad-rotor engine making 1,200 hp. He’ll be racing the hyper-powered hatchback this June at the 100th anniversary of the infamous Pikes Peak Hill Climb event in Colorado, USA.
Nevertheless, as mentioned above, Mad Mike likes to deliver on multiple fronts. And deliver he does, as he took to Instagram less than 24 hours ago to announce a five-rotor engine.
Using the most common Mazda design, which implies a 654 cc displacement per rotor, the engine comes with a total size of 3,270 cc (199.5 ci)—the rough 3.3L size explains why Mike calls this the 33B. And, according to motorsport rules, this can be equivalated to a 6.6L displacement for a piston engine.
The project, which has been three years in the making, is being completed by New Zealand’s PPRE (Pulse Performance Race Engineering), who have already done a six-rotor a few years ago.
All we get for now is the short video below, a timelapse that brings a bit of a literal take on the tower of power that is this engine, with the rotors being stacked on top of each other at first.
However, it’s not clear if Mad Mike wants to keep the unit N/A for the ultimate scream or if he’s taking things down the turbocharged path in a quest for massive power.
Of course, the pro drifter didn’t miss the opportunity to ask us to guess the wrapping of the engine: “The question is what car do I build for it!?”
Will Mad Mike introduced the world’s first five-rotor engine?
The lucky vehicle gets to shriek in the face of EVs with the help of this five-rotor engine should follow the slip angle master’s nomenclature—Most of his builds include a short, descriptive first part coupled to the “bul” suffix (e.g., the said Huracan is the Nimbul), but there are exceptions, such as this 1977 Mazda Cosmo RX-5 dubbed Xpenzv.
Now, we could find at least one other enthusiast who has announced a five-rotor engine. That would be American aficionado David Zachary Mazzei (aka mazzei formula). So it looks like the race is already on and maybe it could be settled with the first startup…