Mazdaspeed Motorsports Media Day
by Laura Heng
The 24 Hours of Daytona usually kicks off the racing season but for Mazda the racing season officially begins at the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Media Day where the company lays out its motorsports strategy for the coming year. It was also a great history lesson in Mazda’s rich motorsports history that continues today. Mazda is not only involved in a ton of different pro level motorsports such as ALMS and GrandAm but Mazda also heavily supports and subsidizes grassroots racing efforts for the rest of us. A little known fact is that Mazda shells out several million dollars per season in driver scholarship money and prize money through their various racing programs. With all of this support that Mazda gives back to racers it's no wonder why Mazda is the most road raced brand in America.
Mazda is also one of the biggest supporters for developing new racing talent in their Mazda Road to Indy program which grooms young drivers through a ladder system of faster and faster formula type cars. At the start of the last Indy 500 20% of the field had raced in a Mazda series at one point in time. Andretti, Rahal, Mansell, and Brabham are famous alums who all went through the Mazda ladder system earlier in their careers.
|We were greeted at the entrance by the Mazda6 and Mazda CX7 safety cars used at Mazda Raceway aka Laguna Seca. These two Mazda pace cars have lapped the course over 5000 times at the time of writing.|
|The 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans might be the crowning achievement in Mazda’s racing history. This #56 Mazda 787 is the sister car to the legendary green and orange Mazda 787B that won Le Mans that year. All of these 787/787B cars are rotary powered by a 4 rotor R26B. Mazda engineers came up with the R26B by essentially coupling two motors together as a single unit. Sort of like making an inline 8 cylinder using two inline 4's with a long crankshaft. The motor is a pink unicorn in the rotary world as so few of them were produced yet they still carry legendary status.|
|Here’s the back of the #56 Mazda 787. The reason why this car doesn’t quite look museum quality clean is because it is fully restored and regularly raced at vintage events. It looks like the wing uses a lower aluminum skin instead of carbon fiber. Poking out behind the right wing pillar is the 12V+ power connector for starting the car. To the left of the connector the air jack inlet is poking out and just below we can see what looks like a transmission breather tube.|
|The Mazda 787 on display is the actual car that raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished 8th. Check out how big those antennas were back then!|