The key engineer behind Mazda’s success at the Le Mans 24-Hour in 1991 believes the Japanese carmaker should have another crack at the big race – using rotary power.
Speaking with Top Gear UK, Nobuhiro Yamamoto made the declaration while watching some of Mazda’s favourite race cars doing their thing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Hearing the sound of his rotary-powered 767B racer at Goodwood no doubt brought back fond memories of Le Mans glory for Mr Yamamoto that he would like to see repeated.
But the engineer added that Mazda has a responsibility to its fans to revive the racing program, and to rotary engine technology.
“I understand the expectation from our customers, and indeed the rotary engine fans,” Mr Yamamoto said. “I know that the expectation for us to return to Le Mans is high. I can imagine a day when Mazda returns, yes. I hope we do.”
Mazda created history with its 787B in 1991, which became the first Japanese car and the first ‘without pistons’ to win at Le Mans. Rotary engines were in fact banned from Le Mans after Mazda’s win, however this ban has since been lifted.
It’s a fan favourite as well, with its piercing rotary engine sounds giving spectators at the French circuit something they had never experienced, at the time.
“I am a rotary racing engineer, that is my background,” Mr Yamamoto said. “That’s very important. I hope – as with many other Mazda fans – that we go back to Le Mans.”
Mazda built a Skyactiv diesel engine in 2012 to supply to an outside team for competition at Le Mans.
Despite stating on numerous occasions away from the race track that it had a responsibility to continue with the rotary engine in some capacity, the on-again off-again reborn RX-7 project seems to be on permanent hiatus.