The 84th Le Mans took place recently, and saw manufacturers like Porsche, Toyota Ford and Audi compete in a gruelling 24 hours of racing around the infamous French circuit. Controversy, dreadful weather and a shock defeat for Toyota kept the audience on the edge of their seats. However, 25 years ago, it was Mazda who were causing a stir with a winner which has gone on to take its place in the Le Mans hall of fame, with a car which is still talked about today in both racing and domestic circles.
Back in 1991, Mazda brought us the 787B as its entrant for the Le Mans race. It was revolutionary – nothing like it had ever been seen before, proving that Mazda were indeed a trailblazing pioneer in the motor industry. Sporting Mazda’s signature rotary engine technology, it could achieve 800 horsepower, and revving the engine produced the sort of engine noises which would make heads turn and people stop in their tracks. Described by some motoring journalists as "The engine clearing its throat", it was recorded so that the next generation of motor enthusiast could hear the magnificent machine in action. A quick internet search should lead you to it.
By their own admission, the Japanese media weren’t too bothered by Le Mans, and television coverage was non-existent. However, when they realised that Mazda were about to claim a historic victory, they quickly rearranged their schedules so that the people of Japan could see Mazda claim their victory over the last few hours of the race.
Even the 787B’s driver, Johnny Herbert, was so emotional at claiming the winning position that he climbed out of the 787B at the end of the race and promptly fainted, leaving his colleagues to pick up the trophy while everyone tried to bring him round.
With Mazda still holding the crown as the only Japanese manufacturer to ever win Le Mans, this is definitely a very special anniversary for Mazda.