Mazda looks back at its Le Mans win, celebrates 30th anniversary


In 1991, Mazda became the first Japanese car manufacturer to win the world’s most famous endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hour rally.

Some notable wins of the brand in the Le Mans races include the 1980 endurance race when a US dealer from New Jersey entered an RX-7 with a 12A engine which finished 21st overall. It was also the first Mazda and the first rotary engine car to be classified at the endurance event.

In the 1982 race, a pair of IMSA-GTX spec RX-7 Type 254s entered the Le Mans race with one finishing 14th place overall.

The 1983 Le Mans race gave Mazda its first silverware. Takashi Torino, Yojiro Terada, and Yoshimi Katayama were victorious in the Group C Junior category where they finished 12th overall.

The following year, the BF Goodrich Lola-Mazda of Yoshimi Katayama, John Morton, and John O'Steen finished 10th overall and won Group C2. The other Lola came third in class, with the two 727C Mazdas fourth and sixth in Group C2.

In 1985, Mazda had an all-Japanese driver line up driving a twin-rotor Mazda 737C and came in third in class. The 1987 Le Mans races saw David Kennedy, Pierre Dieudonne, and Mark Galvin win the IMSA GTP class and finish seventh overall.

Mazda finished 10th overall with a Mazda 767B in 1989.

The carmaker entered a pair of new Mazda 787s and a solo Mazda 767B in 1990. The 787s suffered electrical and transmission issues while the 767B finished 20th.

And finally, in 1991, Mazda made a historic win at the Le Mans endurance race. The winning car was a Mazda 787B.

“The cabin of the 787B was beautifully laid out and comfortable, the rotary engine was absolutely fantastic,” said the driver of the legendary 787B, Johnny Herbert.

He remembers it as “silky smooth and bulletproof in terms of reliability” Adding, “Mazdaspeed was a very small team compared to the Mercedes and Jaguar teams but by 1991, the team was in perfect position because of the huge learning process in the previous years.”

Photo from Mazda

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