MAZDA ROTARY IN COMPETITION
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.