MONTEREY, Calif., Aug. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As the only Asian car company to ever win the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mazda has a unique and nearly unmatched heritage in racing. From the company's first foray into international motorsport at the 1968 84-hour Marathon de la Route, all the way to today's SKYACTIV-D clean diesel-powered Mazda6 competing in the Grand Am Rolex GX class, the company has always used racing to improve the brand. This weekend, at one of the most storied vintage racing events in the world, on its home track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mazda will celebrate its racing successes the way it always has: by competing.
Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) maintains a fleet of heritage Mazda racecars at its Irvine, Calif. headquarters, and has chosen to bring three to Monterey this year – a 1990 787 Group C prototype, 1991 RX-7 IMSA GTO and 1992 RX-792P IMSA GTP. What is particularly unique about the company's efforts, however, is that all the crew who prepare the cars for competition at the track, as well as perform all ongoing maintenance and repairs between events, are Mazda employees, with much of the work performed on a voluntary basis outside of normal working hours. In addition, the drivers are Mazda employees. Joining the three US-based cars at this year's Reunion will be a 1991 787B, sister car to the Le Mans winner.
"Mazda's involvement in racing is more than just a sticker on a silhouette car that has nothing to do with road technology, and more than just writing a check and walking away," said Jim O'Sullivan, MNAO President and CEO. "We are fully committed to motorsports, whether it's the fact that there are more Mazdas road-raced on any weekend than any other brand, whether it's the fact that this is our 13th season as partner to Mazda Raceway, whether it's the fact that our clean diesel Mazda6 racecars are bringing street technology to the racetrack – and winning – or whether it's the fact that Mazda employees are driving our heritage racecars this weekend. We are car people through-and-through, and it's an honor to show off our heritage at this most important weekend of events."
1990 Mazda 787: Built for the 1990 Le Mans race, 787-001 did not finish the race that year. It returned the following year to back-stop the two new 787B models, and finished eighth overall. All three Mazdas entered in 1991's race finished, in first, fifth and eighth. Powered by a four-rotor R26B rotary engine, it produces 720 hp. This weekend, it is driven by Robert Davis, MNAO Senior Vice President, US Operations.
1991 Mazda RX-7: Built for the 1991 IMSA GTO season, this purpose-built racecar – GTO-001 -- won five races on its way to helping Mazda win both the driver's and manufacturer's championships. Pete Halsmer was the driver's champion, and drove this car that season. It is powered by a four-rotor 13J rotary engine producing 640 hp. This weekend, it is driven by Jeremy Barnes, MNAO Director of Public Relations and Brand Experience.
1991 Mazda 787B: In 1991, Mazda succeeded in winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with all three of its cars finishing the race. After Le Mans, the race-winning chassis was retired from competition and now resides in Mazda's museum in Hiroshima, Japan. This chassis – 787B-003 – was produced after Le Mans, and ran the balance of the Japanese Sportscar Series for the 1991 season. It is nearly identical to the Le Mans winner, and is also powered by a four-rotor R26B rotary engine producing 750 hp. This weekend, it is driven by Yojiro Terada, long-time Mazda factory race driver.
1992 Mazda RX-792P: This spectacular car ran only one season in the IMSA GTP series before global finances and the collapse of the GTP class stopped Mazda's efforts in the series. The car showed strongly in the 1992 season, and was widely rumored to be the car to beat, had it run in 1993. GTP-001 is powered by a four-rotor R26B rotary engine producing 750 hp. This weekend, it is driven by Weldon Munsey, MNAO Manager, Partner Affairs.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through nearly 700 dealers. Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City. For more information on Mazda vehicles, including photography and B-roll, please visit the online Mazda media center at www.mazdausamedia.com.
SOURCE Mazda North American Operations