Mazda RX-7 GTO #74 – TSM

RX-7 GTO
1992 Mazda RX-7 GTO #74
Pilots: Y. Terada, F. Freon, P. de Thoisy
Team: Team Artnature
Race: 15th overall (2nd in IMSA GTS class) at Le Mans in 1994
TSM - 430190 (resin)

Mazda began its Le Mans foray in 1970, supplying their rotary engines to Chevron. A few years later, in 1979, they got truly serious about it, entering an IMSA-spec RX-7. Unfortunately, the car DNQ. Nonetheless, in the following years Mazda continued their factory effort, and in 1982 an RX-7 finished in 14th place. After that, the manufacturer kept an almost constant presence at La Sarthe. In fact, in 1983 they achieved their first class victory with the 717C. And of course, in 1991, they became the first Japanese brand to score an overall victory. Despite the success with their prototypes, Mazda didn’t bother with the RX-7 at La Sarthe after 1982. However, during the 80s, on the other side of the Atlantic the story was different. Competing in IMSA’s GTU class (“under 3 liters”), the RX-7 achieved almost 100 victories.

RX-7 GTO
In North America the RX-7 GTO earned immense fame.

Based on the production version of the car, the RX-7 GTU used a 2-rotor Wankel engine. Developed by Racing Beat, this engine was an evolution of Mazda’s iconic 13B engine, rated at 184 kW (250 hp). For 1990, encouraged by the GTU’s success, Mazda developed the RX-7 GTO. For the new GTO (“over 3 liters”), Mazda used the new and more powerful 13J engine. In the beginning, the distinction between the GTU and GTO classes was only the engine displacement. Nonetheless, manufacturers pushed the boundaries to the point that by 1990, the GTO cars were in fact silhouette cars. With that, the RX-7 GTO only “kind of” looked like the street RX-7, not sharing any parts with the regular RX-7. The 4-rotor 13J delivered 441 kW (600 hp) to the rear wheels through a Hewland five-speed gearbox. The car was exceptional, and in 1991 it brought Mazda the GTO championship.

RX-7 GTO
A silhouette car is basically a metal cage covered up by body panels so that it looks similar to the original car.

In 1992 Mazda upgraded the GTO’s engine, replacing the 13J with the new and more powerful R26B. However, due to financial reasons, the manufacturer opted to terminate their IMSA program. With that, Mazda packed up the cars and returned them to Japan. Meanwhile, to boost attendance, ACO decided to allow GT cars at La Sarthe for 1993. Furthermore, for 1994 they would also allow IMSA GTS cars to participate. And with that, the RX-7 earned another go at La Sarthe. Come June 1994, Japanese Team Artnature arrived at La Sarthe with an old RX-7 GTO, painted in blue and yellow. Mazdaspeed gave them “half” factory support, with Yojiro Terada and French Franck Fréon and Pierre de Thoisy at the helm. Though the RX-7 GTO #74 did a fine race, it came in second in the IMSA GTS class.

RX-7 GTO
A small team, with little factory support and finishes second? Impressive.

Despite not achieving great success at Le Mans, the RX-7 sure left its mark at IMSA. For me, what entices me about it is that it’s a silhouette car. A car from a much more bonkers era of racing… This model came out of the blue, I wasn’t even aware that it existed. However, a couple of weeks ago my dealer sent me an e-mail saying that he received a few, wondering if I wanted one. Of course I said yes, and here it is. In 1:43rd scale it’s a duesy, and looks terrific. I doubt it’ll be of interest to the general collector, yet for the Le Mans nut it’s a great buy.

One thought on “Mazda RX-7 GTO #74 – TSM”

  1. Wonderful model, absloutely love it. Well done Tsm and very well done to you for a solid addition to the collection

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