25 years ago, Mazda captivated the world at Le Mans
It’s 25-years since the Mazda 787B wailed across the finish lane at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, marking the first win for a Japanese carmaker. What’s even more impressive is the fact the 787B didn’t even have any pistons.
It is almost 25 years ago to the day that the Mazda 787B – the car you see above – shrieked across the finish line at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was a symbolic moment in Le Mans history as it was both the first time that an Asian car company had won this famous endurance race and the first time that a car without pistons under the bonnet took first place.
In fact, no other Japanese carmaker has won the 24-hour epic race since.
The 787B remains one of the most amazing and astonishing racing cars in history, and it was Johnny Herbert who successfully steered it to victory all those years ago. And what a victory it was considering Herbert had fought a gruelling 21-hour battle against Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, and only took the lead for the first time three hours before the end of the race.
Instead of being powered by a conventional engine with several cylinders, the 787B had something rather different under the bonnet. The four-rotor wankel engine that powered it churned out over 700-horsepower and maintained an average speed of 127.62mph.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the 787B was the distinctive sound it made. At 9,000rpm, the 787B sounded like no other car at the time, and even today still holds a cult-like following in the world of racing and rotary engines.
Some 250,000 people witnessed that famous Mazda win all those years ago, but it was a bitter sweet victory as the 787B was decommissioned shortly afterwards. That’s because rotary engines were subsequently banned from the sport.
Today, Herbert’s winning 787B can be found residing in the Mazda museum in Hiroshima, Japan, only being allowed out for special appearances at events.
One such event was the 2011 Le Mans, which signified 20 years since Mazda’s famous triumph, and it was Herbert who was once more behind the wheel of the 787B.
Relive that moment now and hear the 787B in all its glory in the following YouTube video:
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