The 1991 race-winning rotary-powered Mazda 787B sportscar has been selected as a ‘Legend of Le Mans’ to take centre stage with 11 other race cars in celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hours in June.
Race organisers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), asked members of the public to join an internet poll to pick one car that best embodied the spirit of Le Mans from each of the 10 decades of the race. More than 20,000 fans cast their votes online.
From the public nominations, a 12-member jury of experts meeting in Paris last week selected the final legends. The judging panel included FIA President Jean Todt, ACO President Pierre Fillon, multiple Le Mans winners Emanuele Pirro and Yannick Dalmas, famed Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, US actor and racer Patrick Dempsey and from the UK, Autosport’s long-time sportscar correspondent, Gary Watkins.
For the 1990s, the voting was a dead-heat between the Mazda 787B and the Peugeot 905 – so ultimately, 11 cars were given ‘legend’ status.
Mazda is still the only Japanese manufacturer to have won the world’s toughest endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours. In 1991 Mazda demonstrated its ability to defy convention and rewrote motorsport history with the rotary-powered 787B. The 700ps racer, which boasted a 210mph top speed, was driven by Britain’s Johnny Herbert, with Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot. Running faultlessly, the 787B completed 362 laps (3,065 miles) at an average speed of 127.62mph to take the chequered flag.
The ACO plans to bring together examples of each of the legendary cars for a series of events prior to the 2013 race and for a parade lap of the famous 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe before the start of this year’s 24 Hours race on June 22/23.
As part of Mazda’s expanding global motorsports activity, Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations, is developing a version of the race-tuned new 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D clean diesel engine in conjunction with Mazda Corporation for teams competing in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class of international motorsport.