For a long time she was the only Japanese woman to win Le Mans 24 Hours. Those who heard it continue preserving his good memories. We take the opportunity to be in Le Mans Classic 2022 and have it before us to look at the history of the Mazda 787B and its fate, to say the least, unexpected.
A few years of evolution
Mazda decides to compete with what makes production sports models unique, its rotating pistol engine (who we told you the story here) A simple engine manufacturer on Chevron then Sigma, then entered the RX-7s with some success in Group 5.
The Hiroshima Company decides to go further and address the new Group C principles are not so important. It all started in 1983 and 717C which, without completing the task, showed great reliability, being the only one in its unit to complete the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The following year, it was 727C turn to be included. It is a direct evolution of 717C, but its competition leaves something to be desired. The two cars entered within 24 Hours Le Mans finished fourth and sixth in their unit, which seems decent, except that they finished behind two Lola T16 with the same engine. They will take part in other 1984 world championships, leading Mazda to tenth place in the standings.
By 1985, we are moving to 737C, which is a new evolution of the original models. The performances unfortunately remain consistent: third and sixth in C2 at Le Mans, eighth in the championship.
Mazda passes second
In 1986, the text was thoroughly reviewed. No more channels created by Mooncraft, everything is delivered in-house by Mazdaspeed, including a new trirotor engine that replaces 13B which is well known by fans of this system.
The vehicle is designed in accordance with IMSA-GTP regulations, which were adopted in Le Mans, to maintain a sufficient number of entries. It is also the first time the team has been forced to retire in Le Mans, two cars in the race will suffer from gearbox damage. In 1987, two cars will be imported again. One finished seventh in total and the other retired with engine problems.
By 1988, the car changes again and becomes 767. The engine gets an extra rotor up to 4, and takes the name 13J. The two entered Le Mans finishing a total of seventeen and nineteen, behind 757, fifteen. The car gives Mazda fourth place in the Japanese sporting model.
In 1989, 767 changed to 767B and started the season with 24 Hours Day where it got fifth place overall overall. In Le Mans, the car is moving. The two entered seventh and ninth positions overall, ahead of 767, twelve. However, it was not enough to shine in the tournament, with Mazda finishing fifth in Japan.
By 1990, the engine was thoroughly reviewed to be R26B, as well as part of the aero. The car changes the name to 787. The car is fast, but still not at the level of leading products in the unit.
However, Mazda remains confident because the 787 appears to be more economical than its competitors. In Le Mans, after taking the lead in their unit, two incoming vehicles were forced to retire following technical incidents. Only 767B will be left, completing a total of twenty. The 787 progressed slightly at the end of the season and gave fourth place in the Japanese championship to Mazda.
Even though the Wankel engine was discontinued by 1992, to provide space for 3.5 transfer engines, Mazda continued to develop its model. 787 has been extensively updated and becomes 787B for the 1991 season.
Oreca, who is in charge of development, and Jacky Ickx, a project consultant, were able to persuade FISA to adjust the car’s weight, to take into account usage standards, for which Wankel’s engine is at a disadvantage. Suddenly, the car drops from 1000 to 830 kg for this new season.
Without being a revolution, the car gets a little out of competition. On its first trip to Suzuka, the 787B qualified only a few tenths ahead of the 787, but the reliability gain allowed the car to occupy sixth place overall, fourth in the C2. The following results will be the same: Mazda 787B wins Monza for 1000 km of Fuji and finishes sixth, finishing eleven in Silverstone. Without a catastrophe of walking, a car cannot aim for victory.
Le Mans 1991, the dedication of the Mazda 787B
For the Le Mans classic, the Mazda delivers two Mazda 787Bs and 787Ms. Due to the strange rules of the time, they will start in nineteen, twenty-three and thirty positions, respectively, with C1s taking higher positions, even when they set a slower time.
However, the Japanese are not the winners. They bet everything on dependency, the 90th edition has angered them. On the other hand, they focused on the use of the vehicle, so as not to exceed the amount of fuel allocated for the race. The result of the race, of the 900 horsepower that the engine can propel, is blocked by about 650, through a speed limit. As a result, knowing that they are being punished at a higher speed, engineers will be working at a higher corner speed than competition.
The simulation estimates that it is possible to win if the car covers 367 cycles within 24 hours. .
Surprisingly, C1-type vehicles (the next 3.5-liter sports car that will run from 92) descend like flies, leaving the field open for the “old” C2 (only one C1 will end up being classified). At 10pm, three Mercedes had established themselves in the lead and the first 787B was following them, but did not seem to be able to overtake them.
With Le Mans at Le Mans, not everything went as planned for the German side and two of the C11 in the top three teams suffered technical difficulties, allowing # 55 787B to climb to second place. Three hours from the end, the leading C11 (n ° 1 of Schlesser / Mass / Ferté) seems unstoppable and still … Less than two hours before the finish, the car had to retire, following an overheating problem, leaving the boulevard. for the Mazda 787B, which remained lagging behind. Johnny Herbert, a German Weidler and Frenchman Gachot, who contributed to the situation, finished the race with three chains in a row.
Le Mans’ 24 Hour History had completely changed. For the first time the Japanese team won the race (and it will take 27 years for Toyota to do it again). For the first time (and probably unique) the rotating piston engine overcame the overall classification of the tolerance event.
After Le Mans
The winning car was removed from the race and became part of the Mazda Museum collection. The second Mazda 787B is leaving for Japan. He will finish third in the 1000 km Fuji (which counts for the Japanese championship). The 1991 campaign ended in fourth place among manufacturers in Japan and fifth in the world.
It was completed with Mazda 787B and epic of Wankel engines with patience. However, let us remember the last time that it was not because the 787B won the engine was banned, but only because Bernie Ecclestone was successful enough to sell the 3.5-liter Sport, which would almost kill the world’s endurance. championship.
We are leaving with some car photos during this edition of Le Mans Classic 2022:
Additional photos: Mazda