The newest addition to Mazda USA’s ever-growing Heritage Collection debuted recently at the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. In a nod to both Mazda’s racing legacy and its “Driving Matters” slogan, the newly restored #202 767B — clad in the iconic orange-and-green Renown CHARGE livery — greeted the world by racing around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the biggest vintage racing gathering in the US. We were on location to soak in the sight and sound of it and its stablemates.
As previously reported, the #202 767B is chassis 767B-002 and raced at the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it finished 9th overall. It’s smack in the middle of the series of Mazda Le Mans prototypes designed by the brilliant Nigel Stroud and constructed by Mazdaspeed. To get some more details on this particular car, we caught up with Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Mazda North American Operations, at Mazda Raceway.
According to Davis, after this car’s full and prolific 1989 season, its racing history gets a bit murky. It was found by members of Mazda USA in storage at Mazda Japan, at the time with its engine and transmission missing. Since nobody was using it, Mazda USA acquired the car from the mothership and brought it to the US.
Mazda then sourced a replacement engine and transmission and sent to Downing/Atlanta Racing, founded by ex-Mazda racer Jim Downing, for restoration. In particular, its 13J quad-rotor engine was built using parts from a race engine donated by a GTO-spec RX-7, acquiring a modern management system and a set of new wheels along the way. Remarkably, the paint job was in beautiful condition when found and remains original, requiring only cleanup and polishing.
Along with the 767B’s debut, Mazda also devised a beautifully informative exhibit in celebration of the 25th anniversary of its historic Le Mans victory. It illustrated the full lineage of its Le Mans prototypes along with the history of Mazda itself. Each and every Mazda Le Mans entrant — from the 10A-powered Chevron B16 to the famous 787B — was represented by detailed and accurate profile illustrations lining the inside and outside of the Mazda structure.
Furthermore, the pit for the four vintage racers from the Heritage Collection — RX-7 GTO, RX-792P, 787, and 767B — was directly integrated into the exhibit, providing visitors up-close access and a visceral experience. The Cosmo Sport, GLC, and RX-7 Sprit R were on display, along with the Millionth Miata for a limited number of visitors to sign.
Of the Heritage Collection, Davis pointed out that the 757 in the basement will begin its restoration soon. Mazda’s also interested in acquiring a 737C, 727C, and the Chevron B16 — the first Mazda rotary engine-powered Le Mans racer. The Heritage Collection already encompasses a substantial portion of Mazda’s Le Mans racer lineage by type. Once they fulfill this shopping list, it will be one of the most spectacular race car collections around.
At the Motorsports Reunion, many of Mazda’s top brass were present. Jeremy Barnes, Director of Public Relations, drove the mellifluous GTO RX-7. Ken Saward, Design Manager, drove the 767B. Weldon Munsey, Manager of Partner Affairs, drove the RX-792P. And Robert Davis himself drove the 787, though mechanical issues prevented it from racing on Sunday, putting Davis in the RX-792P in the Sunday afternoon race. Meanwhile, Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s Global Design Manager, raced one of the Spa tribute R100s.
Many companies claim they love racing, but how many of their high-ranking execs actually get dirty and sweaty at the track? Mazda has a penchant for touting its association with racing and expertise in producing driver’s cars, but it appears that they walk the walk.
Some images courtesy of Al Merion/Mazda.
Thank You Mazda !! (Thank You JNC).
Dang this car is beautiful!
When you go through the museum in Japan it is quite obvious that there are many enthusiast working at Mazda, very gratifying for those of us who love cars… The Museum and plant tour are worth the time and trouble.
Mazda is to be commended for establishing the heritage fleet. What troubles me, as a life long rotor fan, is that today’s Mazda buyer doesn’t have a rotar option, so where will Mazdas motorsport fans of today come from? Forget Mazdas piston cars as good as they are, it’s the rotary Mazdas that make the difference. I speak as someone who owns both. So come on Mazda, get a few rotary options across your range, and importantly, get back on track with rotarys at the top levels of motorsport. Great to see mad mike shredding in his rotarys, but we need to see a factory effort in wec, going head to head like the group c days with jaguar, Porsche, Nissan and toymota, BUT it must be a rotary campaign. That way the next generation of Mazda fans, who are at Le Mans today, or at the racetrack watching top level Motorsport, will cherish those memories, and carry them forward, for there is nothing in Mazdas current Motorsport enterprise that will do this, mad mikes drift builds being the exception. Mazda get back on track, rotary dna only.
People have very short memories in the car business. And like in all other worldly endeavors, history is always written by those left standing after the fighting is all done and the smoke clears. But sometimes the smoke hangs around and survives somehow long after the fire is extinguished. Interesting to see repeating quotes from the source quoted here. But how would this source know all this history when not even a Mazda employee back then? And didn’t arrive at Mazda until years later when the staffers who actually were there were mostly all dismissed from their jobs–(by this great “source”)? Interesting to see such celebrity with the press today. By the way… the real Mazda heritage museum is in Hiroshima–and always was. And so were many of the real Mazda enthusiasts who made the racing happen and weren’t mugging for the cameras. And those who were North American fans, boosters, and more of Mazda racing… ? Well. Nobody knows who they were anymore… because they were. There were many names who actually worked behind the scenes, stood in the pits and sat in the Mazda grandstand and at Riverside Raceway at the Mazda hairpin turn and Laguna Seca and Long Beach… but those names and the jobs they did are all forgotten–as if it never happened. And that is a little sad because this so-called racing heritage is not something that just suddenly dropped out of the sky with relative newcomers–no matter how it is made to appear now. Problem is…”heritage” refers to the past…