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Mazda open to Le Mans 24 Hour return

Engineer in charge of 1991’s winning car tells TG that he wants a La Sarthe return. With a rotary engine

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The engineer behind Mazda’s 1991 Le Mans-winning 787B has told he would like to see the Japanese firm return to the legendary 24-hour race.

Speaking at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, the programme manager for the new MX-5, and a race engineer who masterminded the glorious, rotary-engined 787B, said he wants to go back to La Sarthe.

“I understand the expectation from our customers, and indeed the rotary engine fans,” Yamamoto-san explained. “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.”

The original 787B, piloted to Le Mans victory by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot, remains the most famous Mazda racer of all time.

It was the car that helped Mazda finally clinch the top spot at Le Mans, and in doing so, become the first Japanese manufacturer to win the famous 24 hour race.

With a 700bhp rotary engine, a huge 448lb ft of torque and revised suspension geometry, it was considerably quicker than its 787 predecessor, which was fielded the year before. Following the race, Mazda retired the 787B from competition, wheeling it out for special events. Like Goodwood where, this past weekend, it threatened to shake down the epic Mazda structure adorning Lord March’s front lawn when started, much to Yamamoto-san’s delight.

“I am a rotary racing engineer,” explains Yamamoto-san, “that is my background. That’s very important. I hope - as with many other Mazda fans - that we go back to Le Mans.”

Hands up who wants to see the return of a high-revving, banshee-noised rotary-engined Mazda LMP1 car mix it up against Nissan, Toyota, Audi and Porsche? Yeah, thought so.

The comment box today will be turned into a petition. Sign your name at the bottom. And to give you a nudge, here’s what the original 787B sounds like…

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