New Zealand Classic Car - - Front Page -

Since its fit­ment in the first Mazda pro­duc­tion mod­els, the ro­tary en­gine has en­joyed enor­mous suc­cess in com­pe­ti­tion in Ja­pan and right around the world. Its rac­ing her­itage be­gan in 1964, when Mazda started to com­pete in events around South­east Asia with the 110S / Cosmo Sport. Then, in 1968, an en­durance event, the Marathon de la Route, was cho­sen to be­come Mazda’s first big in­ter­na­tional event. The Cosmo (which was de­tuned to 96kw for re­li­a­bil­ity) fin­ished a re­spectable fourth at the end of the 84-hour race.

The R100 com­peted in the Euro­pean Tour­ing Car Chal­lenge, the first­gen­er­a­tion RX-7 was vic­to­ri­ous in the 1979 IMSA GT se­ries at the Day­tona 24-hour, and Se­ries III RX-7S even com­peted in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

But it was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that Mazda cel­e­brated its big­gest in­ter­na­tional event win, when two Mazda 787B (pow­ered by R26B four-ro­tor en­gines de­vel­op­ing 671kw) and one 787 took to the cir­cuit in 1991. Af­ter nu­mer­ous at­tempts with dif­fer­ent cars over the years, it was car No. 55 — the 787B driven by Volker Wei­dler of Ger­many, Johnny Her­bert of the UK, and French­man Ber­trand Ga­chot — that took Mazda to the podium, and it be­came the first Ja­panese mar­que to win the famed event in the process. The fol­low­ing year, Le Mans rule changes meant that only ve­hi­cles pow­ered with 3500cc re­cip­ro­cat­ing en­gines could en­ter, so the win was a fit­ting end to Mazda’s Le Mans cam­paigns.

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