Justin Pawlak’s Bergenholtz Racing Nitto Tire Mazda RX-8 Drifter
Justin Pawlak and Team Bergenholtz should have entered the 2009 Formula Drift season with restrained expectations. Their Mazda RX-8 was a brand new, never raced proposition, and Team Bergenholtz had built one extremely intricate and technologically advanced racing machine. 

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But the Bergenholtz brothers always have some innovations up their sleeve, and always race to win.

The Mazda runs a 20B three-rotor Wankel that was designed and built by fellow MAZDASPEED drifter Kyle Mohan of Mazdatrix. The Cosmo-sourced engine is boosted by custom turbo kit conjured by Tod Kaneko featuring a Tial Sports GT40XSPL turbo, a Burns Stainless Inconel turbo header fabricated by Steen Chassis, a Tial Sports wastegate, a Tial Sports blow-off valve and a HKS intercooler. Fueling is handled by 600cc mains and 1,000cc second-stage injectors. With a Bergenholtz Racing-tuned Motec M800 ECU, this combination produces 600 horsepower and 480 lbs-ft. of torque at a conservative 14psi of boost pressure.

The key to success in drifting is attaining crazy angles in your drift, and the key to attaining crazy angles is the suspension. Complete custom upper and lower arms in the front end engineered by Steen Chassis open the door to dramatic drifts by allowing the wheels to turn farther lock-to-lock. Three-way competition adjustable coil-overs, a Speed Source front sway bar, a KW rear sway bar and Speed Source custom adjustable rear control arms keep the sideways momentum manageable.

On the innovation side, familiar territory for Team Bergenholtz, inventors of front-drive wheelie bars, were some dubiously placed shocks. Ron Bergenholtz, Team Manager for Bergenholtz Racing, provided a bit of cushioning to the rear bumper by installing shocks, adding just enough flex at the bumper bar to allow wall scraping without all the nasty side effects - like crashing.

Ron says the RX-8 was solid. The only hurdle he had, if anything, was tailoring and tweaking the car to Justin’s liking.

“It was very important to make Justin feel as comfortable as possible in the vehicle,” says Ron. “Everything from how the pedal location felt to how the car reacted to Justin’s driver inputs. Jumping into a brand new car is like getting a new girlfriend. You got to get to know each other. Our job as crewmembers was to tell his new girlfriend what he liked and disliked. He was dating Jennifer Love Hewitt before, and now we had to introduce him to Angelina Jolie.”

Ron points to the Formula Drift Irwindale Finals as the highlight of the season. “This event truly highlighted the natural talent of Justin Pawlak,” relates Ron, “as well as the amazing performance of the Bergenholtz/Nitto Mazda RX-8.

“Irwindale Speedway was buzzing on the number one qualifying performance Justin laid down on Friday night. Irwindale has always been known as quite a challenging, if not dangerous, track. Justin had no problems showing the judges he was top dog in qualifying by scoring a 97-point run. Just to give you an understanding of Justin’s accomplishment, the second-place score in qualifying was an 88. No one had ever seen any Formula DRIFT driver outshine anyone like that in qualifying.

“One thing I learned about drifting in 2009 was that tandem is everything. Tandem showcases the skill and prowess of the driver. It is all about car control and flexibility. A driver has to be able to adapt to his surroundings and make laser fast adjustments necessary to shadow the lead car.

“Tandem is the main entertainment value for Formula D. Despite a motorsports competition occurring, all of the race teams involved in Formula D are there to do one thing and one thing only: entertain the crowd. It’s almost like the scenes in the movie ‘Gladiator.’ People love to see a good fight.”

According to Ron there is still room for improvement, and the team will not rest during the off-season. You would think the two-way telemetry was enough, or the bumper bars to ride the wall was the end of it, but they are still thinking up more nutty ideas to implement into the drift program, with the goal of winning.

Ron says a lot of these ideas will make it easier for the driver and crew to make decisions on track as well as behind the wheel. But the car was so good in 2009 with Justin finishing a stout ninth in the Formula Drift championships.

In fact, Justin is somewhat sad and misses his personal Mazda FC-vintage RX-7. “I can’t even race my old car anymore.  The RX-8 has more horsepower, a great HKS transmission, more steering angle, and just more of everything. I can ride the wall with Ron’s spring-loaded bumper bars out back without tearing up the car. It’s an awesome ride.”

The 2010 Formula Drift schedule should be released at the SEMA Show in November and rest assured the Bergenholtz/Nitto Mazda RX-8 will be on the warpath.

Bergenholtz Racing 2009 Mazda RX-8 R3
Owner: Bergenholtz Racing Inc.
Drift Pilot: Justin “JTP” Pawlak
Chief Data Analysis And Tuning: Ed Bergenholtz
Crew Chief: Brian Benson
Car Chiefs: Kurt Gasper, Rommel Figueroa
Builder: Ron Bergenholtz and Steen Chassis

Power: 600hp, 480 lb.-ft. of torque at 14psi of boost pressure

Motor: Mazda 3-Rotor, all assembly and engineering performed by Kyle Mohan of Mazdatrix
Dry Sump:  Star Mazda 3-stage dry sump setup with Peterson 3-gallon sump tank. All lines engineered by Baker Precision Bearings
Injectors: 1st stage: 600cc, 2nd stage: 1,000cc
Intake Manifold: Custom Steen chassis unit with GM Z06 90mm throttle body
Spark Plugs and Wires: NGK
Turbo Manifold: Burns Stainless Inconel by Steen Chassis
Turbo: Tial GT40XSPL configured by Tod Kaneko
Wastegate: Tial 600mm unit
Blow-Off Valve: Tial
Intercooler: HKS
Radiator and Oil Coolers: Mishimoto
Air Filter: AEM
Fuel Pump: Product Engineering
Fuel Regulator: Aeromotive
Cooling System: Stewart water pump and recovery tanks
Plumbing: All Baker Precision Bearing Ultralite lines
Transmission: HKS Sequential 6-speed transmission
Clutch: OS GIKEN Twin Plate
Driveshaft: Driveshaft Shop
LSD: OS GIKEN 1.5-way
Axles: Driveshaft Shop 1000hp units complete with hubs
Spring and Shocks: 3-Way Competition Adjustable Coil Overs
Sway Bars: Speed Source front sway bar and KW rear sway bar
Roll Cage and Chassis Engineering: Steen Chassis
Front Suspension: Complete custom upper and lower arms engineered by Steen Chassis
Rear Suspension: Speed Source custom adjustable arms
Front: 5:AD Model:S5F, 19 x 9.5
Rear: 5:AD Model:S5F, 19 x 10.5
Front: Nitto NT05 275/30/19
Rear: Nitto NT05 235/35/19
Paint: Aurora Blue Mica applied by Sam’s Auto Land in Gardena, CA
Wing: APR GTC-500 Wing with Steen Chassis Mounts
Door and Trunk lid: SEIBON Fiberglass
Custom door sill and quarter panel: Troy at 5:AD
Hood: Custom from Steen Chassis
Seats: Sparco Pro 2000
Seatbelts: Sparco
Steering Wheel: Sparco Champion
Mirror: McKenzie’s wink mirror
Rollcage:  Steen Chassis
Instrument Cluster: MOTEC ADL
MOTEC complete wiring
MOTEC PDM (Power Distribution Module)
Motor tuned by Eric HSU of XS Engineering
-Jim Jordan, Steve Sanders, Tod Kaneko, Derek Ige at Mazda USA
-Tomo Mizutani, Gloria Miyamoto, and Terrence NG at Nitto Tires
-Troy Sumitomo of 5 Axis
-Scott Kanemura and Rommel Figueroa of 5:AD
-Nathan Tasukon and Jim Munn of Motec Electronics
-Warren at Sparco USA
-Ryo at Seibon Carbon
-Mike at Mishimoto
-Gary and Jason at Steen Chassis
Jon at RC Engineering
Chris at KW Suspensions
Sean at OS Giken
Chris and Danni at Brembo
Greg at Tial Sport
Eric and Max from Garage Graphics
Darlene and Hung at Baker Precision Bearings
Izumi at WPC Coatings
Kyle and crew at Mazdatrix
Frank at Driveshaft Shop
Eric HSU of XS Engineering
Jack at Burns Stainless
Mike Morton at Peterson Fluid Systems
Kristopher at NGK Spark Plugs
Ryan at HKS
Chuck and Masaki at ixepa enterprises
Jim at Sam’s Auto Land
And anyone else the team possibly forgot because they’re getting old and forgetful.
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