My Motorsports Passion

          

 

 

 

 

 

Building the RX-8!

Follow the sequence & events as the car is built from a body to a pro racecar

The body began it's trip to the USA after being pulled from the Mazda assembly line in Japan, crated, shipped and delivered Mazda's warehouse in Olive Branch, Mississippi located just south of Memphis, Tennessee.

Mazda's Warehouse in Olive Branch, Mississippi

February 2004

In February 2004, I loaded up the body for the trip to our home base in Texas and having briefly viewed the construction without any suspension, drive train and interior, I was excited about the potential and how this new car was going to look once completed.

The original plan (which included Mazda Motorsports Development in Irvine, CA) was to build a new "All Motor" RX-8  racecar. Since the RX-8 is normally aspirated we felt this would be good for Mazda, the NHRA and the class. The rules for 2004 (in my opinion) indicated that the class was going to be very competitive based on 2003's results and considering the success this team had in 2003, we believed in our decision and prepared to move full speed ahead. Having a new RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) RX-8 in the "All Motor" class was an exciting idea which we believed would have had great marketing potential.

Once it was off loaded and in our shop, it was transferred onto a lift, planning began immediately to determine a time frame, what would be needed in addition to how the car could be constructed and a budget. Building a brand new racecar with a brand new body (shell, 4 doors, a hood and a trunk) appeared as if it was going to make life easy as we could literally use the same drive train, wheels etc that we knew was a good combination. The only difference being the RX-8 has an Independent Rear Suspension and the RX-7 had a solid axle, the wheel base was going to go from 97 inches to 106 inches and far more aero dynamic than the RX-7.

         

Realizing the importance of being "legal" and staying with the rules, I removed the complete rear end from the RX-7 and simulated the location under the new body. Clearly, securing a solid rear end  presented a challenge as the original mounting points could not be used. I elected to engage the NHRA with pictures, measurements, drawings and explanations and proposed modifications (which I believe would have given this car an unfair advantage) but a compromise could not be reached and so I had to decide what to do next. I did not believe the expense of purchasing a sub-frame and the IRS was worth it, having a custom 6.14 rear end gear and spool manufactured for the Mazda differential let alone the R&D in IRS geometry, shocks and springs was worth it. What was I going to do with the body? That was the million dollar question.

During this time, I purchased all of the main items needed to complete the car which included the front and rear bumpers, head lights, tail lights door latches and door handles.

Front View

In March, our 2004 NHRA Sport Compact series began with the hope of continuing where we left off in 2003. Plagued by a mechanical failure after qualifying #1 at the season opener in Fontana, CA followed by a poor performance in Moroso and then the May 4th season ending crash in Englishtown which severely damaged the car left the team "high and dry". Unfortunately, the RX-7 was so badly damaged, the right front strut tower was pushed back 9 inches behind the left side so we scrapped the car and concentrated on what to do with the RX-8.

After consulting with Mazda, my sponsors and Tito's Chassis Shop, the decision was made to change classes and move up to the Modified class. I loved this sport so much, I felt like this was a logical choice and developed a plan which was named:  

PROJECT RX-8

The following are the articles and updates as they were written during the coarse of the construction.

May 20, 2004.

Following my May 2nd, 2004 accident in Englishtown, my vaunted RX-7 was damaged beyond repair and where no compromise was reached regarding the "All Motor" rules, we have decided to build a 2004 Mazda RX-8 Modified/Pro Outlaw RWD class car.
Steve Sanders at Mazda Motorsports Development has approved this move from Mazda's marketing perspective as have my current associate product sponsors:
 

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Mazda – Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development & Mazda North America Operations

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NGK Spark Plugs

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K&N Engineering

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Mickey Thompson

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Weld Racing

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MicroTech EFI

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Idemitsu Racing Oil

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Rotary Performance

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GForce Transmissions.


Additionally, the power will be coming from Kilo Racing/Central Florida Turbo & Rotary Performance in Garland, Texas. The combination of Jesus Padilla, Rolo Lopez and master rotary tuner Chris Ott for power has me extremely optimistic
.

We will go fast!

The chassis will be built by Tito's Chassis Shop out of Lake Hamilton , Florida . Tito's first RX-8, however he has built several of the top back-halved Puerto Rican cars that are similar and I feel confident he will build a safe and competitive racecar. The big differences are that this car is longer, wider, aerodynamic and looks fantastic.

We will Hook-Up!


We will be building a turbo charged, peripheral ported, Electronic fuel injected, 2-Rotor rotary running on methanol and anticipate producing approximately 900hp in a 2000lb car. We are going to begin with a Mickey Thompson 31 x 13.5" tire and utilize my GForce GF-5R Transmission. This new car will have a 106” wheelbase and be 64” wide. Along with the beautiful appearance and lines of this new RX-8, the following components will trick it out to be a force to be reckoned with.
 

Tito has selected Strange Engineering’s all new aluminum 9-inch rear end assembly with brakes that will help the starting and stopping while Strange double adjustable shocks for the rear and Strange Engineering's lightweight Aluminum Strut Package for the front. Chassis Engineering's Top Gun 4-link suspension will help tune the car for fast passes. Weld Racing's Spindle Mount front and Aluma*Star 2.0 rear wheels will ride on the corners. The vast amount of methanol required will be delivered by a Weldon 2345-B electric pump and be ignited by NGK’s racing spark plugs. The precise control all the fuel, ignition and boost will be handled by MicroTech’s LT-16 EFI unit. Lubrication will be provided by Idemitsu Racing Oil. The largest Japanese lubricate manufacture, whose product will be available to the public for the first time in the US this summer. This team was one of the first to use and test this lubricant in the US and it has performed flawlessly after being filtered by premium K&N Oil Filters.
 

I anticipate this project being kicked off by me delivering the RX-8 body and parts to Tito's Chassis Shop by the second week in June, 2004. Our goal is to have the car completed and begin testing by mid August 2004 and possibly compete in the last couple of events in the 2004 season. Beyond that, I believe we will be ready to compete competitively in 2005 and beyond. I believe this selection is my best choice for what I am sure is going to be a fantastic new racecar

 

June 5, 2004.

 I am pleased to announce that I will deliver the body, wheels, tires as well as several key parts to Tito's Chassis Shop on Friday, June 17th, 2004. Tito has cleared his chassis jig and is currently completing other projects so that he can focus entirely on the RX-8 over the next several weeks. After an estimated 8 weeks, the car will be ready for the electrical installation and paint.
I am currently working out the turbo charger and clutch details.
Preliminary estimations of this cars performance is that it should run mid to low 7's at around 185 - 190 mph. This is exciting
.

June 20, 2004.

This Sunday morning, I am like a kid waiting anxiously in anticipation for what's to come. I am here to say that this car is going to be every bit of what I imagined, and some. This will be my new passion from this day forward.
 After having a little help from my buddy Victor Sanchez loading the body into my trailer (The car has no wheels) and securing it down for the journey to Florida, Anthony and I left Texas on Thursday evening and delivered the car to Tito's Chassis Shop in Lake Hamilton, Florida on Friday afternoon. Met by owner Hector "Tito" Medina, we exchanged greetings and began unloading.

 
     

After unloading the car and placing it on a large dolly, we moved it into the shop. I was totally struck by the immaculate condition of this brand new facility. I could not help notice a couple of cars in the shop and the attention to detail. I was very impressed by what I saw. The chassis construction are like a work of art. I am totally convinced that I will have a safe and competitive racecar built.
     

Since this would be the very first RX-8 modified in this manner, together we reviewed the "real thing" as opposed to drawings and pictures. It did not take Tito and I long to agree that since we had the room and the stock floor was relatively flat, a Chassis meeting SFI Spec 25.1D. will be built. This choice will permit me, the driver to be totally encapsulated within the main cage providing maximum safety and permit running quicker that 7.49 second ET's.
     I could tell immediately that Tito's mind and heart was going to make this one hell of a racecar . He was as excited as I was about this beautiful RX-8. Having never met this man previously, I can honestly say that I have total faith in his ability and commitment. Thanks to my friend Jesus Padilla for "steering" me to this chassis shop.
     Stay tuned for more details as they become available and thanks to the hundreds of rotary fans for their encouragement and support. Together, the alliance of this race team with Kilo Racing and Tito's Chassis Shop will become a force to be reckoned with.
     On a personal note, I thought the All Motor project was exciting. This new Modified RX-8 project is rejuvenating me like nothing else. I can't wait to see the end result and drive this beast.

July 22, 2004.

     On the return flight from the Las Vegas event sponsored by "Turbo by Garrett", I reflected on the number of racers and fans alike that inquired about the status of the new RX-8. I am delighted to provide an update that includes some new pictures.
     As you all can imagine, I am really excited about this project and as a result, I am in constant contact with Tito at Tito's Chassis Shop. From our conversations, I can tell you that the progress is great.
     The majority of the 3/4 chassis has been constructed and Tito has spent a tremendous amount of time with a special tool that "Removes" spot welding used by most car manufacturers to assemble the body parts to remove most of the unnecessary metal that will not be required in the racecar and left with just the "skin".

     

The entire rear end has been cut out to accept the "Back Half" with just the floor remaining for the time being. Currently, the floor is "holding it all together" and will be removed all the way up to the fire wall once the body is placed onto the chassis. That is expected to happen soon.


     Fortunately, the rules revisions at mid season will permit us to replace the entire stock floor with aluminum panels, thus making the construction a lot easier plus the fact that the transmission will be able to be removed with ease once the car is complete and in competition.

Additionally, we will be using a one piece fiberglass front nose and rear bumper to reduce weight and make servicing the car a lot easier in the future. Stay tuned for more coming soon.

July 22, 2004.

     On the return flight from the Las Vegas event sponsored by "Turbo by Garrett", I reflected on the number of racers and fans alike that inquired about the status of the new RX-8. I am delighted to provide an update that includes some new pictures.
     As you all can imagine, I am really excited about this project and as a result, I am in constant contact with Tito at Tito's Chassis Shop. From our conversations, I can tell you that the progress is great.
     The majority of the 3/4 chassis has been constructed and Tito has spent a tremendous amount of time with a special tool that "Removes" spot welding used by most car manufacturers to assemble the body parts to remove most of the unnecessary metal that will not be required in the racecar and left with just the "skin".


     The entire rear end has been cut out to accept the "Back Half" with just the floor remaining for the time being. Currently, the floor is "holding it all together" and will be removed all the way up to the fire wall once the body is placed onto the chassis. That is expected to happen soon.
     Fortunately, the rules revisions at mid season will permit us to replace the entire stock floor with aluminum panels, thus making the construction a lot easier plus the fact that the transmission will be able to be removed with ease once the car is complete and in competition.
     Additionally, we will be using a one piece fiberglass front nose and rear bumper to reduce weight and make servicing the car a lot easier in the future. Stay tuned for more coming soon.

August 9, 2004.

     I am delighted to report that the Project RX-8 is now beginning to resemble a beautiful racecar thanks to all the hard work of Tito's Chassis Shop.
     I am deeply grateful to Tito and the fantastic progress. In just weeks, as a result of the long days Tito is working, the light is now very clear at the end of the tunnel.
     During the Sport Compact event at the Texas Motorplex this past week end, I proudly showed some of the latest pictures I had of the chassis and the Strange modular rear end connected to the 4-link. Everyone asked, "Where is the body". Well, here it is in the raw.

   
     I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the racers and fans for their moral support and encouragement this past week end. It is so rewarding to know just how many people express interest in this project.
     As you might tell from the latest pictures, we are not far off our schedule. Just as soon as I have more information, I will post it along with more pictures.
     Thanks to Carlos Rivera for providing an artists impression of what is to come. We have not decided on colors at this time. However, the design, pending a primary sponsor design and colors is close to what I have in mind at this time and is subject to change. Stay tuned for another update soon.

September 1, 2004.

     WOW. The RX-8 is rolling on its own wheels.
     Thanks again to Tito for his commitment to this project. Following the long delay caused by hurricane Charlie which left Toto's shop without electricity for over a week, we are making great progress.
     As you can see in the latest pictures, the car is now at a point where is rolling on it's own Weld Wheels and Mickey Thompson tires.
     The body will be completed in the days to come. The rear door skins will be welded in place and the doors hinged. The front fiberglass one-piece nose will be mounted as will the rear fiberglass bumper and deck lid. The next step will be the positioning the mid plate in order to secure the Trick Titanium bell housing and build the transmission mount.
     As you might tell from the latest pictures, we are not far off our schedule. Just as soon as I have more information, I will post it along with more pictures.
     Next Thursday or Friday, I will fly down to Florida and be "fitted" into the car to position the custom seat, pedals, steering wheel and parachute lever. This will be my first opportunity to see the car and I can't wait. This entire process has been like having blind date and a long distance relationship all in one. All I have seen is pictures but I am certain I will be pleasantly surprised and "Fall in love" with the new car. Stay tuned for more pictures coming soon.

September 9, 2004

     FINALLY, I will have the opportunity to see, touch and feel the new RX-8. I fly down to Florida for the week end with a bunch of parts and we will locate the pedals, steering wheel, seat and parachute lever.
     Thankfully, the last hurricane was not as disruptive and the project continues with only a few days on hold.
     The progress is great. The rear door skins, unbeknown to us, are made of aluminum. This posed a real challenge to secure as the original plan was to weld them in place. Tito manufactured and secured the skins to a small frame are now firmly in place and will be permanently "closed".
     Time permitting, we will attempt to locate the parts I am taking with me such as gauges, shift light, ECU, ignition module etc.
     No doubt, I will be taking a few more pictures which I hopefully will be able to post some time next week.
     Stay tuned for what I am sure will be a great update.

September 13, 2004.

     The anticipated flight this past Friday from Dallas Fort Worth to Orlando could not come sooner for me. I have been so anxious to see the teams new RX-8.
     My good friend Jesus Padilla picked me up at the airport; we stopped off at his shop to pick up the new 10-spline input shaft for the transmission and then drove out to Tito’s shop.

I was grinning from ear to ear the moment I laid eyes on Tito’s creation. What a beautiful sight. From the concept Tito had from the beginning, the sheer beauty of his workmanship and the attention to detail are things I have not seen in a very long time. In a few short words, his work is absolutely outstanding.
     

There is no question this RX-8 will be a serious contender in the Modified class.
As you can see in new pictures, the car will retain the OEM dimensions. The stock wheel base of 106 inches and no body flares. The only non OEM parts will be the fiberglass nose, hood and rear bumper. It will even have a “sun roof”.

     
     Under the body which is literally just the skin, is the 25.1D funny car cage, the OEM fire wall minus the area removed for the titanium bell housing including all the sock material to just past the strut tower that supports the new front suspension.

     The only challenge we will be confronted with will be the exhaust header and turbo charger mounting. Since the RX-8 in its OEM configuration is normally aspirated, the front of the car between the frame rails is not as wide as its predecessor; the turbo charged ’93 RX-7.

     Our mission this past week end, all of which were completed was to locate the engine/bell housing mid-plate, shifter, pedals, parachute lever, gauges, electrical relays and switches, fuel and water pumps, radiator, data logger, ECU and ignition components.
     Tito will now design and build the transmission slider and mounting frame. The progress to this point permitted us to take measurements for the new drive shaft which was ordered today.
     The highlights of the week end were weighing the car in its current state which is a mere 1400 lbs including the driver, rolling it out of the shop to take the latest pictures and sit behind the steering wheel and “imagine” what the first pass might feel like.
     My sincere appreciation goes out to Tito at Tito’s Chassis Shop for staying the course considering all that has happened over the past month which includes two hurricanes, curfews, no running water and no electricity.

September 27, 2004.

     Once again, the project is delayed. This time by hurricane Jeanne.
     For the fourth time in 6 weeks the project has been delayed. The damage to Tito's shop this time was a little more than caused by the previous hurricanes. High water levels, a damaged shop door and as in all the other storms, power was lost for several days.
     Power was restored today which will permit the remaining sheet metal to be fabricated. The good news is that all the fiberglass work is complete as are many of the remaining small, time consuming items.
     I am also pleased to announce this teams association with TiAL Products. The RX-8 will be fitted with TiAL Blow Off Valves and Wastegates to control and protect the Turbo. Additional information will follow in the next week or so.

October 12, 2004

     All the major construction is complete.
     I am very pleased to report that the construction of this fantastic new car is compete. All of the custom fabrication that has been done is simply a work of art and I know the reaction is going to be great when everyone has the opportunity to see it in person.

 
     The remaining items left to complete are the custom exhaust manifold to support the HUGE turbo thanks to the support of Precision Turbo and the waste gates thanks to the support of TiAL Products. After that the only remaining items are the plumbing, wiring and paint.
     The custom header and intake will be manufactured by El Gato Performance in Florida. My good friend Jesus Padilla will pick up the car from Tito's Chassis Shop and deliver it to El Gato's on Thursday. I will post the new pictures just as soon as I have them. Stay tuned.

November, 2004

     We are planning to transport this RX-8 back to Texas. SOON.

Thanks to this man, Hector (Tito) Medina, owner of Tito's Chassis Shop in Lake Hamilton, Florida for his skill, patience and tenacity, working through 4 hurricanes, the project is very close to completion.
     

With the construction now completed, the trip to Florida to see and pick up the car is coming soon.
     Due to attending the SEMA show in Las Vegas this week, we plan on making the trip in the very near future, possibly as soon as November 5th.
     The remaining items are the plumbing, wiring and paint. The team is considering completing these items and, weather permitting in north central Texas, we may opt to begin testing before painting. We will keep you posted on this progress.

November 17, 2004.

     The RX-8 is back in Texas for the final stages of construction.
     We traveled to Florida on November 12th to pick up the long awaited project. To see the car "all together" for the first time was awesome.
     The MONSTER Garrett turbo from Precision Turbo was mounted to the fabricated exhaust manifold which, due to space limitations, is located in front of the engine. Equally impressive is the 4" down-pipe which exits between the right front wheel and fender.


     Due to the turbo location, Tito spent the entire day relocating the gas tank, radiator and water pump. We saw the remarkable skill and ingenuity of Tito at work to make these modifications. He is truly a master at building racecar's.
     We loaded the car into the trailer along with the OEM bumpers, fenders, hood and other parts and headed over to my good friend Jesus Padilla's Kilo Racing shop to pick up the newly prepared 13B Cosmo Engine. By the look of the motor and by Kilo's comments, I believe we will have good horsepower.
     After a great Latin lunch at a local restaurant in Orlando, we hit the road and 18 hours later, the RX-8 was "home".
     That same Sunday the car was unloaded and in the shop, I completely disassembled the car down to the bare chassis and body to prepare it for some final body work and painting.

 
Thanks to my very good friend Tommy Meyer who owns, builds and restores experimental airplanes. Tommy came over to the shop on Sunday morning and advised me on how best to prepare all the 4130 tubing and aluminum. To my surprise, Tommy offered to take ALL the aluminum "sheet Metal" pieces, and the fiberglass front end and paint them for me in the paint booth at his hangar. What an offer.
     

 

Not wasting any time, we purchased all the painting materials and to date, 3/4's of the chassis is primed. Thanks to Tommy's help, we should have the painting completed in another two weeks at the most. From that point, I will begin assembling again and the focus on the wiring and plumbing .
     Stay tuned for more pictures and updates.

December 1, 2004.

     Down the home stretch for this project.
     The final stages of the building of this new racecar are well within sight. The planning and the work performed over the past few weeks has been rewarding.
     

 

After the entire car was disassembled, I cleaned up and prepared all of the tubing and inside of the body for paint. First, all the tubing was primed with zinc chromate and the I painted the inside a light grey.
     All of the interior sheet metal pieces were stripped of their plastic protective coating, cleaned and the etch primed by my good friend Tommy Meyer over at his hangar. There were a lot more pieces than first met the eye, especially when they were all laid out on tables all in a row.
     A couple of days later, they were painted the same light grey. The finish on these pieces are fantastic.
     

   

The long week end following Thanks Giving were spent reassembling as all of the grey was complete. Fitting and riveting all the metal back into place was like building a puzzle .
     Additionally, all of the suspension, brake lines and engine were installed along with the radiator, gas tank, fuel pump, water pump, exhaust manifold and turbo. With all this in place, we could now concentrate on the inlet manifold and begin the wiring.
     I am currently working with Hogan Racing Manifolds for the intake .
     The majority of the wiring has been completed with the exception of the injector harness and data logger.
     Stay tuned for more pictures and updates.

December 22, 2004

     Almost completed.

   


     I am delighted to inform all of my associate sponsors, fans and racers that the car will be completed and ready to compete in the 2005 season which begins April 2nd in Florida. The car is currently being painted which I expect it to be completed by weeks end. Once I have the car back at the shop, final assembly will begin.
     I do not anticipate the completion date to be later than the end of January 2005 considering all of the holidays are just ahead.
     Although the bell housing certification had not expired, it has been sent back for recertification so that it will not expire mid season. I am also delighted to welcome the guys from Pro-Jay on board. They will be providing the intake and throttle body that will direct all of the fuel and air into the engine. Encouraging is the fact that Pro-Jay have similar product on some of the fastest 13B rotary powered cars around. Hopefully, we will propel this new car to the top of the list with the fastest 13B in class.
     We are also working on some very trick parts for the car. All the Rotary gear heads need to stay tuned as we will be introducing some very modern, state-of-the-art, technologically advanced parts to the rotary community. These 13B parts will be tested, tried and proved and only then introduced.
     Preliminary plans for testing are to travel to Florida where the car will be set up by Tito’s Chassis shop and then it will pay a visit to Central Florida Turbo for some chassis dyno tuning. At this point, the car will be ready to visit a track. We are very excited that this project has come such a long way in such a short period of time thanks to all of the people who have supported us. We continue to be extremely optimistic about the anticipated performance of this new car. We feel we are going to "raise the bar" another notch.
     I would also like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
     Stay tuned and be safe.

January 2, 2005

     Reassembly is well underway.
     Although I selected the same color yellow as the RX-7 was painted, I have to say that the RX-8 is simply stunning in this yellow. Once the graphics and trim have been completed, I believe this car will be stunning.
     We picked up the car from Mr. Car Shine body shop where it was prepared and painted last Wednesday. I was totally impressed by the quality of their work. One of the challenges for Mr. Car Shine was filling the hole that would have been the sun roof. Now you would never know.

 


     I have to say that putting all the peaces together and in place for the final time is rewarding. Actually fitting the wing, parachute and Lexan just made it look like it go fast.
     Happy New Year everyone. Stay tuned and be safe.

January 14, 2005

     Anticipation, excitement and anxious!

 

Although these are the words that best describe this teams mood, we are all waiting for the final items and details to come together so that we can plan the trip to Florida.

RX-8 Images


The one thing that was really making me anxious the entire time during the assembly of the car was, how much did the car weigh? Well, we put that issue to bed last Saturday when Chris Ott came over with Rotary Performance's scales.
Without oil, water and ice, we put a full 5 gallon fuel jug in the car plus a few other "ballast" items to simulate a worst case scenario, I climbed in and to our surprise and joy, it came in at 1937 lbs. That is 63 lbs under the 2000 lb minimum. Without any spring adjustment it was very close to 50/50 weight distribution. The LR was the heaviest corner so with careful positioning of a few items that can be relocated, we should be able to achieve a 51/49 distribution.
     

This coming week, we should have the graphics completed and then we will apply all of our product sponsors signage. They will be: Mazdaspeed, Mazda, Rotary Performance, Mickey Thompson, Weld Racing, NGK, K&N, MicroTech, Decals Plus, Innovative Motorsports, Precision Turbo, Tito Chassis, Kilo Racing, Central Florida Turbo and Idemitsu.
Once all that is complete and the weather here in Texas cooperates, we will take the car out and take what should be the final pictures to post and close the book on the "Project RX-8" page and then start another with testing information and then the 2005 NHRA Sport Compact Drag Racing Series events. Stay tuned and be safe.

 

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