Rotary Engine Le Mans Winner Mazda 787B Selected as ‘Legend’

In 1991 Mazda wrote a new chapter in Le Mans motorsport history with the rotary-powered 787B.

The 1991 race-winning rotary-powered Mazda 787B sports car will be a ‘Legend of Le Mans’ and join ten other race cars in celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hours in June. The race organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest or ACO asked people to join an internet poll to pick one car that best embodied the spirit of Le Mans from each of the 10 decades of the race. More than 20,000 fans cast their votes online.

From the public nominations, a 12-member jury of experts in Paris last week and selected the final cars. The judging panel included FIA President Jean Todt, ACO President Pierre Fillon, multiple Le Mans winners Emanuele Pirro and Yannick Dalmas, famed Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, US actor and racer Patrick Dempsey and from the UK, Autosport’s long-time sport scar correspondent, Gary Watkins.

The winners were:

  • 1920s Bentley Speed 6,
  • 1930s Alfa Romeo 8C,
  • 1940s Ferrari 166MM,
  • 1950s Jaguar D-Type,
    1960s Ford GT40,
  • 1970s Porsche 917K,
  • 1980s Porsche 956,
  • 1990s Mazda 787B and Peugeot 905
  • 2000s Audi R10 TDI,
  • 2010s Audi R18 e-tron quattro

For the 1990s, the voting – using French sponsorship and nationalist math – was a “dead-heat” between the Mazda 787B and the Peugeot 905 – so 11 cars were given ‘legend’ status.

Mazda remains the only Japanese manufacturer to have won what is arguably the world’s toughest endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours.  In 1991 Mazda wrote a new chapter in motorsport history with the rotary-powered 787B.  The racer, which boasted a 210mph top speed, was driven by Britain’s Johnny Herbert, with Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot.  Running faultlessly, the 787B completed 362 laps (3,065 miles) at an average speed of 127.62 mph to take the checkered flag.

The ACO plans to bring together examples of each of the legendary cars for a series of events prior to the 2013 race and for a parade lap of the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe before the start of this year’s 24 Hours race on June 22/23.

As part of Mazda’s expanding global motorsports activity, Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations, is developing a version of the race-tuned new 2.2-liter Skyactiv-d diesel engine in conjunction with Mazda Corporation for teams competing in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class of international motorsport.

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About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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