Mazda 787B

Nathan Glon

September 2, 2022

After years of failure with their endurance race cars and wanting to prove to the world that rotary engines were just as reliable and just as powerful as their piston counterparts, the Mazda engineers frankensteined a car that was so good it got banned.

When Mazda unveiled to the world their new engine designed by Felix Wankel, the rotary, to the world, not many companies believed in it. Mazda was the only one who did. Year after year, the Mazda racing team failed at Le Mans. The 757, 767, and 767B all got crushed by the competition. Even in 1990 when Mazda unveiled their 787, which was a very promising race car, a much bigger 4 rotor engine, and a better aero package, none finished the race. This small Japanese race team was kind of a joke, and no one on the paddock took them seriously.

In the 80’s racing got a bit dangerous. Cars were almost as fast as Americans running to Walmart on Black Friday, teams were using weird experimental engines to get an edge on the competition, and some cars had so much speed they would pretty much take off. It is safe to say that in the 80’s a lot of drivers died. To increase safety and balance in the sport, they announced a new set of regulations that would be put in place in the 1992 season. These regulations were harsh, they restricted not only the rotary, but the safety measures put in play would completely alter the sport. So, in 1991, Mazda saw it as their last chance to prove to the world that the rotary design was viable for racing. 

Nigel Stroud, the designer of the 787B, changed the entire car. He urged Mazda to invest in a full carbon monocoque which drastically improved stiffness and reduced weight. The body of the car was completely designed in a wind tunnel, they threw on carbon ceramic brakes, and off they went. What came out of the garage was a car whose exhaust was louder than Raphael Nadal returning a serve, a body more aerodynamic than Ace Ventura’s hair, and an engine so smooth it sounded like James Bond talking to his new assistant.

With a group of drivers as capable as Boris Johnson, they managed the unthinkable, the win at Le Mans that Mazda and Japan so dearly wanted. This car will forever cement Mazda in the history books of speed as well as the creators of one of the best underdog stories in motorsports. It remains one of the all-time best sounding and looking cars ever made.