HITOSHI TAKAMATSU

DEPUTY PRO­GRAMME MAN­AGER, MX-5 MAZDA MO­TOR COR­PO­RA­TION

Torque (Singapore) - - NEWS - STORY & PHOTO JEREMY CHUA

I WAS BORN TO JOIN MAZDA’S VE­HI­CLE DE­VEL­OP­MENT PRO­GRAMME!

JA­PANESE engi­neers are typ­i­cally re­served, but once you dis­cover what they’re pas­sion­ate about, they’ll open up and be­gin chat­ting away.

Hitoshi Takamatsu is one such en­gi­neer.

Takamatsu-san, who joined Mazda in 1983, spent his first five years cre­at­ing soft­ware that cor­rectly val­i­dated the data gath­ered for ev­ery brak­ing-per­for­mance re­quire­ment. From 1988, he was in­volved in the test­ing and re­search for the brakes on front-en­gine, reardrive mod­els such as the RX-7 and MX-5. In 2000, Takamatsu-san be­came the man­ager of the com­pany’s Chas­sis Test­ing and Re­search depart­ment. In 2007, he was ap­pointed deputy pro­gramme man­ager for ve­hi­cle de­vel­op­ment.

Takamatsu-san talks to Torque about how they de­vel­oped the lat­est MX-5 and MX-5 RF (Re­tractable Fast­back), and tells us what we can ex­pect from Mazda’s fu­ture mod­els.

What made you de­cide to join Mazda?

I wanted to work in the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, but it had to be with a car­maker with a unique his­tory. I love how Mazda de­vel­oped the ro­tary en­gine.

What was the main fo­cus dur­ing the new MX-5’s chas­sis de­vel­op­ment?

We first de­ter­mined the car’s di­men­sions and where we would place the driver. After that, it was about how stiff/strong we could make the body struc­ture.

Was the MX-5 de­signed with a soft-top or hard-top in mind?

We did not dis­cuss this. Our pri­or­ity was to make it a light­weight sports car.

How did you re­duce the MX-5’s weight with­out us­ing car­bon fi­bre?

We made it smaller than be­fore and an­a­lysed the body struc­ture to see where we could shave more weight. Since the body is light, the en­gine didn’t have to be big­ger. We were also able to use a smaller drive­shaft and dif­fer­en­tial.

Do you feel that the MX-5 should al­ways have a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine?

[Laughs] I say yes. But Mazda also has tur­bocharged en­gines, so I can­not say that the MX-5 will never be tur­bocharged. But at this point, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines are suited to the car’s light­weight char­ac­ter.

Do you see elec­tric cars in Mazda’s fu­ture?

Yes. But we can­not for­get about the driver even if we switch to elec­tric cars.

You love ro­tary en­gines. Have you ever driven the 787B race­car?

No, but I had a hand in de­vel­op­ing its brak­ing sys­tem. We are not al­lowed to drive that car!

If you were not work­ing in the car in­dus­try, where would you be in­stead?

I have never con­sid­ered such a sce­nario. I was born to join Mazda’s ve­hi­cle de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme! [Laughs]

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