Fingers in ears time: yes it’s Mazda’s rotary-powered Le Mans car, shattering the Sussex peace as a foretaste of what to expect when the notoriously noisy racers hit the hillclimb at FoS this weekend.
The car shown (and heard!) here is the 787 developmnent car that ran at Le Mans in 1990 and also in 1991 when it finished eighth. That was the year of course its sister Mazda 787B, with Johnny Herbert among the driving crew, made history by winning the great race, the first (and only) Japanese manufacturer to do so.
Differences between the the 787 and the 787B? The B has carbon rather than steel brakes and different cooling and aero, but otherwise they are pretty similar and share the screaming R26B, four-rotor motor, with its 2600cc capacity.
Turboed? Certainly not. Just revs, and lots of them. The motor would rev to almost 10,000 for qualifying but in a race nearer 9000rpm where peak power of 690bhp is developed. It’s a Wankel of course so don’t expect much torque: only about 300lb ft.
‘It’s not just the volume but the frequency that makes your ears hurt, but that’s the fun.’
Does that make it difficult to drive? Jeremy Barnes from Mazda North America, who brought the cars over to FoS, tells GRR: ‘It’s a real pussycat to drive with its all synchro gearbox. You must wear ear defenders of course but in reality it’s louder outside than it is inside.’
How loud? Between 115 and 117dB, so too loud to run at the Goodwood Motor Circuit.
How would you describe the noise?
Says Jeremy: ‘The 787 is certainly loud but mellow and quite different from the noise made by the other two (similarly rotary-powered) cars we have brought to FoS. The RX-7 that won the 1991 IMSA GTO championship sounds more like a big bellowy V8, while the 1992 RX792 IMSA GTP car make a banshee wail – think fingernails down a blackboard and brutally loud. It’s not just the volume but the frequency that makes your ears hurt, but that’s the fun.’
Judge for yourself when all three cars run as FoS through the weekend, along of course with the iconic 787B Reknown car that won Le Mans in ’91. That car lives in Japan but the other three have come over from Mazda in North America where they are all regularly driven in historic racing.
Jeremy added: ‘It’s a real thrill for us to bring the cars over to the Festival of Speed and celebrate our road cars and racing cars. Mazda has never been some Johnny-come-lately in motor racing. Historically we have always raced what we have made and used racing to help develop the road cars. The connection between road and racing is as strong as it always was – and of course we are all immensely proud of the fact that Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer ever to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.’