1986 Mazda 757 Pilots: M. Galvin, D. Kennedy, P. Dieudonné Team: Mazdaspeed Co. Ltd Race: 7th overall (1st GTP class) at Le Mans in 1987 Spark - S0641 (resin)
In 1983 Mazda started an in-house prototype program, aiming at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But even though investing a lot in the project, Mazda was not gaining the expected results. So in 1985 Mazda asked British Nigel Stroud to design a new Group C/GTP car for the 1986 season. Based on the previous 737C, Stroud used an aluminum monocoque with inboard suspension systems. That way the ground effect tunnels were as free of obstructions as possible. But the heart of the car, as always, was the rotary engine. The 757 used the new 13G R3 engine, a rotary with three rotors and a displacement of 1962 cm³. Rated at 450 hp, it was mounted amidships in a steel subframe, which also supported the five-speed gearbox. The body consisted of composed carbon fiber panels to enhance air flow.
Chassis #003 debuted at Silverstone in May of 1986, and did a few races around Europe. At La Sarthe it started back in 29th in the grid and retired with gearbox problems on the 137th lap. For 1987 the car was completely overhauled, with the reliability issues corrected. With better aerodynamics, car #202 managed a 7th place overall and first in class. For the 1988 race Mazda replaced the 757 with the 767. Mazdaspeed had two 767 at Le Mans, with a lone 757 as support. However, the 757 finished ahead of the newer cars, winning again the GTP class.
Mazda was the first Japanese manufacturer to win Le Mans, in 1991. That was the first and last time a rotary engine won the race, and I really admire Mazda for the feat. After all, they started the effort in 1981 with a RX-7. By 1983 they got really serious and had a full-blown prototype car, the 717C. In the end their perseverance paid off, when 10 years later the 787B crossed that finish line screaming. I’m not a particular fan of rotary engines, but I do appreciate Mazda for walking a different road. That said, this is my second Wankel-engined car.
BUT, I’m a bit disappointed. Though I’m admittedly a Spark fanboy, this one stressed my faith. As a model goes it’s a bit simplistic, and just look at the (solid?) wheels… The car is definitely not a model for everyone, but may appeal to the Le Mans (or Wankel) nut. However, in my eyes it doesn’t have the regular Spark-awesomeness. I expected a little bit more.