• 2023/07/18

Johnny Herbert Gets an Applause at Goodwood

From Thursday, July 13 to Sunday, July 16, the No. 55 Mazda 787B took part in a hill climb run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (GWFOS), one of the largest automotive events in the UK, held on the hills of Goodwood in West Sussexshire, southern England. On the 16th, the final day of the event, Johnny Herbert (UK), who anchored the Mazdaspeed team in the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans race won by the Mazda 787B, took the steering wheel and received a generous ovation from the packed crowd.


The Goodwood Festival of Speed is held every year in July. The venue, owned by Sir Charles March, Earl of Richmond, a British nobleman, covers 12,000 acres (about 48 square kilometers) and includes Goodwood House and Hill Climb Road, a golf course, hotel, race track, circuit and airport, and the hillside can accommodate tens of thousands of visiting cars. The hillside can accommodate tens of thousands of visiting vehicles. Admission tickets are platinum paper with a limit of 100,000 per day, and the venue has been packed with spectators since Thursday, the first weekday of the event.


This year, the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mazda is participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the second week of June and the Le Mans Classic from the end of the month to the first weekend of July, and in the course of these events, Mazda has decided to stop by Goodwood to meet the expectations of the enthusiastic British motor sports fans. For this reason, Mazda asked JOTA Sports, which has a relationship with Mazda through Mazda UK, to assist with transportation and preparations for the race. The two drivers from Hiroshima, Mazda UK, and dedicated helpers from JOTA set up a tent to serve as a garage on the 12th, and the JOTA helpers slept in the tent in case of emergencies.


On the first day of the event, which was blessed with fine weather, former F1 driver Karun Chandhok (India) was chosen to drive the Mazda 787B as part of a project by SKY TV, a pay TV station. Chandhok, who is well known as a commentator for motorsports programs, is very popular in our area, and the images from his in-car camera were shown on several large screens installed in the venue. After exiting the 787B, Chandhok said, “I am very happy to drive my first rotary-powered car, the Mazda 787B, which is a historically important car. I was asked by the TV crew to give a commentary while driving, and I had a microphone attached to my helmet, but I was in such a state of excitement that I forgot to speak.


The next day, Friday the 14th, was unfortunate. Intermittent light rain fell throughout the morning, but the track surface was still dry in the morning. Harry Tincknell (GBR), who used to be a regular driver for Mazda USA’s DPI program and helped Mazda win the 2020 IMSA Sebring 12 Hours, was scheduled to drive the 787B on this day. Before the start of the race, the 787B was driven to the paddock where the cars were assembled, and then to the starting point, but at that point the rain became so heavy that the 787B had to cancel its run. The conditions worsened further, and we had to abandon the run for that evening. The weather forecast called for rain on Friday and cloudy skies on Saturday, but on Friday evening, the organizers sent out a simultaneous notice stating that the GWFOS event on the 15th had been cancelled to avoid the danger of strong winds. Many motorsports fans must have been disappointed.


The final day of the event, the 16th, turned out to be a sunny day. Traffic jams were everywhere around Goodwood from early in the morning as many spectators poured in for the 6:00 a.m. opening of the gates. Driving the Mazda 787B this day was Johnny Herbert, one of the 1991 winning crew members. He is a friendly guy who is still very popular for his commentary on F-1 programs. Due to the cancellation of the previous day’s event, the time schedule for the day was rearranged. The first hill climb for the “Batch 2” event, which included the Mazda 787B, was scheduled to start after 9:00 am, but was rescheduled for 12:40 pm during the lunch hour. During this time, Johnny did not relax in the lounge, but actively responded to fans’ requests for service. Mad Mike, who brought his RX-7 drift machine to the event, visited the Mazda tent and asked for a photo with the two of them.


With many spectators watching, the Mazda 787B+Herbert hill climb finally came to fruition. Although the run lasted only about 50 seconds, the audience was filled with cheers and applause. When interviewed, Johnny said, “Driving the Mazda 787B is always special for me. And as you can see today, it’s amazing how many fans still love it. Of course, it is not only the people in their 60s and 70s who experienced it back then, but it is also widely supported by teenagers and people of all ages. The 787B still has a great sound in Japan,” he said.


The Mazda 787B will then be flown back to Japan and returned to Mazda. The 787B will then be flown back to Japan, where it will make its debut at the Mazda Fan Festa 2023 at Fuji Speedway scheduled for September 17.


Text and Photos by MZRacing


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