Mazda was the first Japanese manufacturer to win Le Mans with the legendary 787B back in 1991.
With the introduction of the new hypercar class next year, several automakers have been mulling over returning to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including Aston Martin and McLaren. Mazda is now the latest manufacturer that could make a comeback in the legendary endurance race.
Speaking with The Drive at the 12 Hours of Sebring over the weekend, Mazda North America chief executive Masahiro Moro confirmed that the Japanese manufacturer is considering entering Le Mans, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet. "I think we don’t have a plan we can probably share… about doing a 24 hours race yet,” Moro-San said. "We have been in contact with the ACO [Automobile Club de l’Ouest], and I’m personally meeting with Pierre Fillon and Jean Todt sometime to discuss. It’s important for us [ACO and Mazda] to be in the loop.”
If Mazda does return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it will likely only do so if rules governing its current Daytona Prototype International racer, the Mazda RT24-P, were the same across the International Motor Sports Association’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the World Endurance Championship.
Mazda has an illustrious history at Le Mans. Back in 1991, the rotary-powered 787B famously won the 24-hour endurance race, making Mazda the first Japanese manufacturer to win a 24 Hours of Le Mans race in history. Mazda was also the only Japanese manufacturer to ever win until last year’s race, which was won by Toyota. Team Joest, the racing outfit which Mazda competes with in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, has also won Le Mans over a dozen times.
The modern Mazda RT24-P racer arguably looks just as stunning as Mazda’s previous prototype race cars and has also been driven by three-time Le Mans winner Timo Bernhard. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 600 horsepower.
"We need a great team and a great car, great race management-and of course, resources," said Moro-San. "Team Joest has won the 24 hours [of Le Mans] 15 or 16 times so, so there's definitely plenty of capability to manage that side [Le Mans] as well. I think we’re looking forward to [seeing] what will be our future, as time comes [to decide] to go 24-hour racing. Right now, our big objective is, first and foremost, to get a championship here [in IMSA]. Mr. Joest, he’s a very strong guy, and he’s definitely demanding to get a title - after that, we will think about the next step.”