Mazda has an illustrious history when it comes to motorsport, and it’s been thrust back into the fore with the announcement that one of its most successful competition cars – the iconic 787B Le Mans racer – has been selected as a “Legend of Le Mans”.
The sports prototype racer will take centre stage as part of an 11-strong line-up of Le Mans cars from the decades to celebrate the 90th running of the classic French 24 hour motor race in June.
And Mazda has a particularly successful history at the circuit, being the only Japanese manufacturer to ever win the race outright.
In 1991 the 700hp rotary-engined Mazda 787B took the overall spoils with none other than British driver Johnny Herbert at the wheel.
But it’s not just Le Mans where the Japanese manufacturer has succeeded.
It scored a run of podium results in the 1993 season of the British Touring Car Championship and contested the World Rally Championship in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The firm also began its own support series for the famous Indy Car championship, as well as the single-seater STAR MAZDA junior formula in the USA, designed as a stepping-stone for emerging driving talent in America.
Most recently the firm has returned to Le Mans, looking to build on its 1991 victory. It scored a success too – achieving a podium finish in the LMP2 class with a Mazda-powered prototype in 2009.
This year the Japanese firm will be back again, but this time, drawing upon its Skyactiv technology, Mazda will offer a 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D turbodiesel racing engine to teams looking to compete at the highest level of endurance racing.
With superb efficiency, reliability and on-road performance, the motor has the makings of a great race engine, combining all the characteristics you need for endurance motorsport – speed, power, longevity and fuel economy.
After all, the less time you spend in the pits, the more time you can spend out on the track…
It’s taking the diesel race car thing one step further too – Mazda has developed its own Mazda 6 touring car powered by the same 2.2-litre turbodiesel unit.
The car competed at this year’s 24 hours of Daytona – where Mazda has won its class a staggering 23 times.
Unfortunately, none of the three cars entered finished the race, but in its first year of development, to run at pace and set Daytona history as the first diesel-powered car to compete there, things look promising for the future.
The Japanese brand has always had an unbreakable link with motorsport. With the success of its road cars and the continuing development of its Skyactiv technology, it looks set to continue that well into the future.