• 2015/07/21

Restored Mazda R100’s to Take on Spa Classic Challenge

In 1970, the Mazda R100 (Familia Rotary Coupe) competed at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) and, going up against European heavy weights, it was running as overall race leader for a time before some trouble occurred at the last minute to see victory fall out of their grasp. From that point on the R100 was known as the “Little Giant” in Europe. Deeply impressed by the car’s performance, a Japanese enthusiast has been holding onto his R100 for 45 years and will soon be challenging the historic car race to be held in the that same location it excelled at those many years ago.

That aficionado is Aichi resident, Jin Kato (68 years old). Mr Kato got his hand on an R100 when he was a young man and while he was participating in various motorsports he “witnessed the performance of the car in the 24 Hours of Spa and vowed that one day [he] would also compete at Spa in the R100 coupe.” From that point on he began working on his machine, steadily bringing it in line with the 1970 Spa vehicles and recently has been tuning a 10A 2-rotor engine of the same type as that used in the race. While doing this, he has competed in numerous domestic historic car races to increase the machine’s reliability and polish up his own driving skills. In order to compete at the Spa Classic, one of the requirements is the acquisition of an FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) issued “Historic Technical Passport” (HTP), so he has also been making small adjustments to the vehicle to see that it is accordance with these provisions. Furthermore, he has managed to get his hands on an additional R100 with the same specs, which means his team will now be competing in this year’s Spa Classic Race (September 17th-19th) with two vehicles. Prior to transporting the machines to Belgium, he completed all the necessary adjustments and brought the two R100s out to Fuji Speedway on July 13th to carry out a shakedown. On July 20th the cars were sent off from the cooperating garage in Mr Kato’s hometown, “RE SUGIYAMA,” and headed to the Mazda office in Hiroshima, who have graciously agreed to assist him in transporting the cars to Antwerp. The race week in September will consist of a test run on the 17th, followed by official qualifying on the 18th and a 1-hour final race on the 20th. One of the two machines will be driven by Kato himself, while the other will have Kato’s colleagues taking the wheel.

Spa-Francorchamps is located in the mountainous region east-southeast of Belgium’s capital of Brussels and is a circuit of approximately 7km that once partly included closed off public roads. As the region consists of severe undulations and changeable weather, this racetrack is renowned as being an extremely difficult one to race on. Although Mazda missed out on overall victory in the 1970 24-hour race, in 1981 Mazda UK teamed up with Tom Wilkinshaw to enter an SA22C Mazda RX-7 that achieved the first overall victory for a Japanese car at Spa.

Comment from Hitoshi Kato (Born 1947, 68 years old)
“In order to achieve my ‘Spa Dream’ I’ve cultivated the best machine I could. Prior to this Spa Classic Race expedition, I’ve received a great deal of support and assistance from everyone at Mazda and I would like to express how grateful I am for that. For the last 30 years, from 1984 until today, I have been competing behind the wheel of the R100 Familia Rotary Coupe in Japan’s historic car races at circuits like Tsukuba, Okayama, Nakayama, and so on. The Famila Rotary Coupe was the start of my motorsports career and is full of memories from my youth. This car is a pivotal figure in the history of Japanese motorsports and numerous former racers got their start behind the wheel of this machine. This Spa Expedition is not just something I want to achieve for myself, but also something I want to do in order to compel people to learn from the success of the past, remind everyone of a time when Mazda took the entire world by surprise, and how this inspiration lead to the victory in 1981. I really hope that we can continue to receive everyone’s support from here on out.”

Photo by MZRacing


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