Video+Photos: Mazda 787B back at Le Mans for 20th anniversary of historic win
Twenty years ago this month, Mazda became the first – and to date, the only – Japanese automaker to score an overall win at the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Endurance road-racing has been the cornerstone of Mazda’s participation in motor sports since 1968, as it is the ultimate demonstration of quality, durability and reliability.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company’s overall win, a dedicated team of Mazda Motor Corporation employees has prepared the striking looking and sounding, 700-horsepower, four-rotor Mazda 787B to once again take to the track at speed. This will not be a race, but demonstration laps to honour the achievement and to thank fans for 40 years of support for Mazda and the rotary engine in competition.
Behind the wheel will be a familiar face – familiar to a global audience of TV and movie fans, and familiar to North American road racing fans – Patrick Dempsey. Patrick will squeeze in the trip to France between racing his own Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 at Watkins Glen the week before and at Road America two weeks later, and a trip to the Cannes Film Festival in May. Dempsey scored a personal-best race-finish earlier this year with third-place at the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona.
Patrick Dempsey: “I’ve been a member of the MAZDASPEED family since 2007. I race a three-rotor RX-8 in Grand-Am GT competition, and Mazda allowed me to drive the amazing RX-792P at Mazda Raceway last year. I love the heritage of the sport, and to be given the chance to drive THE car that scored the highest-visibility win in Mazda’s storied racing history is indeed an honor.”
Also behind the wheel during the Le Mans weekend will be Johnny Herbert, one of the three young racers who drove the Mazda 787B to victory. This will be the first time since that June day that Herbert will be reunited with the car he drove into the history books.
He will be joined for the celebrations and interviews on the Mazda stand in the Le Mans circuit village and on the driver’s parade by 1991 Mazda drivers David Kennedy (Ireland), Pierre Dieudonné (Belgium), Yojiro Terada (Japan) and other members from the 1991 dream team, as well as by Seita Kanai, Director and Executive Vice President, Mazda Motor Corporation.
Seita Kanai, Director and Executive Vice President, Mazda Motor Corporation: “In 1991, Mazda was very much an underdog team competing against Mercedes and Jaguar. This win was the racing embodiment of our expression – the will to never give up. We are pleased to be able to share this car once again with our many fans and employees around the world.”
Images: Mazda.com, Official Dempsey Racing Fan Site