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Engineer Behind Mazda 787B, New Miata Wants Brand to Return to Le Mans

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/30/2015 Alex Nishimoto

It's been nearly 25 years since a Mazda won Le Mans, and the engineer behind that win is ready to go back. Nobuhiro Yamamoto, the father of the 1991 Le Mans-winning, rotary-powered 787B and the program manager for the new MX-5 Miata, told Top Gear he wants Mazda to return to the famed endurance race.

Engineer Behind Mazda 787B, New Miata Wants Brand to Return to Le Mans

"I understand the expectation from our customers, and indeed the rotary engine fans," Yamamoto said to Top Gear during this past weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed. "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."

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With Audi, Porsche, Toyota, and Nissan currently dumping millions of dollars into their LMP1 programs, a return to Le Mans is not a decision Mazda will make lightly. We don't know if Mazda has the will -- or the finances -- to tango with the top teams, but whatever Mazda enters, it sounds like Yamamoto wants it to have a rotary engine. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

"I am a rotary racing engineer," Yamamoto said. "That is my background. That's very important. I hope --as with many other Mazda fans -- that we go back to Le Mans."

But Mazda's on-again, off-again RX-7 sports car successor has faced perpetual delays, and a high-performance rotary engine doesn't seem to fit in with Mazda's efficiency-focused Skyactiv image. However, a rotary engine was used a few years ago as a range-extender in a hybrid Mazda2 prototype, and a version of that drivetrain is said to be planned for production. Perhaps Mazda could apply elements of that system to a rotary hybrid Le Mans racer.

Another automaker that's rumored to be considering a return to Le Mans is BMW, possibly with a hydrogen-powered car entered into the experimental Garage 56 class. With the top class dominated by high-rolling manufacturers, perhaps Mazda has its sights set on that same, less crowded category.

Whatever Mazda's plans, we know we'd absolutely love to see the brand return to Le Mans. Here's hoping Yamamoto-san isn't the only one at Mazda with that dream.

Source: Top Gear

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