• 2023/06/21

Mazda 787B Participates in Le Mans 100th Anniversary Ceremony

On June 9 and 10, the Centenary Ceremony was held at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, with a parade of 47 cars, including the Toyota TS050, Toyota GR010, and other winning cars. The parade of 47 cars included the Toyota TS050, Toyota GR010, and other winning cars.


The Mazda 787B No. 55, which had been on display at the Le Mans Museum since the end of May, was taken out of the museum on this day. After the tires and brake pads were changed and the car was refueled by Mazda technicians who had traveled from Japan, the engine was started to warm up. The roar of the engines echoed through the small space in the back yard, attracting many spectators who had heard the roar. After a few minutes of warm-up, applause and cheers arose. This has already become a common sight at Le Mans. The cars then moved to a temporary pit set up in the permanent Bugatti Circuit. There, they were joined by two Toyotas, a Jaguar XJR9LM, an Audi LMP1 car, and a BMW V12 LMR. These cars needed to make adjustments to their equipment before they could start their race, and they also needed to warm up carefully. The Mazda 787B, on the other hand, required almost no special work and just waited for the start time to arrive. A track walk was being held on the racing course, and while many spectators were strolling around the area, it was time to move to the starting point. Each car started its engine and proceeded under the Dunlop Bridge on its own. This was chosen as the starting point because it was the point where the track layout, which started climbing from the starting point, turned downhill. Drivers gather here in groups. The vintage winning cars, brought here directly from the museum, are already ready to go.


The Mazda 787B is scheduled to be driven by the well-known Yojiro Terada, but he is not showing up yet. In the pit area, the “Club des Pilots” (drivers’ club) was filming and seemed to be stuck there. Already gathered at the starting area were Jacky Ickx, Stefan Johansson, and other faces involved in Mazda’s 1991 victory. Ickes told us, “The four-rotor engine with that great sound was a technology that only Mazda could have done,” and he stiffly held the hand of the engineer who was assembling the R26B engine at the time, saying that it was a great job. Johansson said, “Actually, I am still frustrated because that year I was driving the No. 18 car (Mazda 787B-001) and until Friday I believed our car would win the race. The weather forecast for Saturday was that it might rain, so our car had to change gear sets in a hurry. 55 car started with a dry set up as it was. And it didn’t rain,” he said, eliciting laughter. Terada managed to make it just before the start of the run. A little after the scheduled time of 19:30, the ceremonial running began. Starting with the older race cars, the cars drove in reverse order around the course from under the Dunlop Bridge, passing the straight and making a U-turn at the final corner. Once again heading for the home straight, the cars were urged by the officials to take their positions. This is a Le Mans-style start formation where the cars stop at an angle to the course. The spectator stands are already crowded with fans. After the cars are introduced in order, only the drivers are asked to stand on the opposite side of the track from the cars, and when the French flag is waved, the race is finally underway. Most of the drivers reach their cars in a short trot and hastily put on their helmets to become cockpit people. In Le Mans in 1969, protesting against this dangerous starting procedure, Ickx walked slowly, put on his helmet, and won the race overall, starting from the very back of the grid. In 1969 at Le Mans, Ickx protested against this unsafe starting method. The No. 55 Mazda 787B again drew loud cheers from the stands as Terada got in and started driving. When Terada finished the run, he was applauded by the spectators inside the Dunlop Bridge. The next day’s demonstration run was also held before the final race. The rain that had hit the track hard just before the race dried up by 12:30, and all the cars completed two laps of the full course in dry conditions. Both the drivers and the fans in the stands were thrilled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Le Mans.


Le Mans 100th Anniv. Winning Car Parade (YouTube 0’58”)


Text & Photos by MZRacing


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