Mazdas Take to the Track at the 2017 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
These rotary racers are a direct link to Mazda’s racing heritage
As you well know, Mazda is a brand that prides itself on building cars that are fun to drive. It's "Zoom Zoom" marketing catch phrase is probably one of the best known in the U.S. and the Miata, along with the brand's rotary-powered sports cars, have captivated the hearts of enthusiasts not just in the States, but globally.
And that's why when the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Revival ramps up every August, Mazda is there with a handful of its historic race cars, which are nearly as fun to watch on the track (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) as they surely must be to drive. Here are the Mazdas that captivated our imaginations at this year's event.
1986 Mazda 757
Prior to the 757, Mazda had partnered with other motorsports engineering firms on their prototype race car chassis designs and used a two-rotor engine directly linked to the 13B rotary unit found on production RX-7 models. The 757 was a clean sheet design with an in-house designed chassis and a bespoke, 13G, three-rotor rotary engine. Two 757s contested the GTP class at the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans, but neither finished the race. This car is currently raced by its Swiss owner.
1989 Mazda 767B
One of the more iconic Mazda GTP cars, this 767B in its distinctive "Charge" livery has a four-rotor, 630-hp 13J engine and finished 9th overall at the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans, in addition to winning at Fuji and two All Japan Sports Prototype Championship races. The 767B was an important stepping stone on Mazda's path to winning Le Mans.
1989 Mazda MX-6
An MX-6 may seem a little out of place in this company, but this is no ordinary MX-6. IMSA GTU class rules were quite lax, allowing a chassis layout, engine and transmission all different from road going versions. Mazda ran its MX-6 as a rear-wheel drive car with a two-rotor engine (as opposed to the inline-four street cars had) and a Hewland racing gearbox. In 1989, two MX-6s won several IMSA GTU races and clinched the manufacturers' championship for Mazda. The next year, they won even more races along with both drivers' and manufacturers' championships.
1991 Mazda RX-7
A very special car, this RX-7 GTO came at a time when IMSA rules mandated that entrants retained the steel roof and glass windshield of the production car the racer was based on. Other regulations were looser, allowing the RX-7 to run an evolved version of the 767's four-rotor 13J, producing up to 640 hp. In '91, driver Pete Halmser won the GTO drivers' championship and clinched the manufacturers' championship for Mazda. Three years later, the car was ran at the 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans where it placed second in class, an impressive feat.
1978 Mazda RX-3
The RX-3 was one of Mazda's early rotary-powered sports coupes and this one has been a race car virtually since new. Campaigned by a Southern California-based architect in west coast races from 1979-1982, it was later purchased by a Mazda employee who embarked on a three-year-long restoration. Today, the car is largely original and is actively vintage raced.
1985 Mazda RX-7
If this RX-7 tube-frame racer looks familiar to you, it's probably because you've seen it in the winner's circle before. Built as an IMSA GTU entry in 1985 by Team Highball, this RX-7 raced through the end of the 1980s, winning the GTU class at the 24 Hours of Daytona on its first outing in '85, then another four times! The car also won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1988, on its way to 69 total race victories. Impressive is an understatement.
1985 Argo JM-19
Built and raced by driver Jim Downing, a racer who found tremendous success with Mazda rotary-powered race cars, this car features a English-engineered Argo chassis mated to a 350-hp, two-rotor engine. With this car, Downing won the IMSA Prototype Lights championship for three years consecutively - 1985, '86 and '87. It continued racing professionally through the 1990 season and is now owned and campaigned by Mazda racer Dennis Spencer and his son, Scott.