67 Year Old Doctor Pursues Long Held Dream to Compete at Spa in Rotary Coupe
At the 24 hour endurance race held at the Spa-Francorchamps in 1970, four Mazda (at that time known as Toyo Kogyo) works rotary coupes delighted spectators by chasing down Europe’s most famous cars such as BMW and Alpha Romeo. In the end they would suffer engine trouble right when victory was within their grasp. However, despite the disappointing result, the strong performance of this small Asian race car, with it’s unfamiliar exhaust sound, left a lasting impression and became the talk of Europe where it was nicknamed the “little giant.” News of this event was also widely reported in Japan and was deeply engraved in the heart of the 23 year old Kato. He told himself, “One day I’m also going to drive a rotary coupe at Spa.” After this, he would go on to live out his life as a doctor who always had the incentive of fulfilling this dream in the back of his mind. At the age of 30 he would again get his hands on a Familia Rotary Coupe. From 1984 he began to hone his competitive driving technique by taking part in domestic historic car races and so on. While doing this he has also steadily worked on modifying the car to meet 1970 Spa specifications and is now finally prepared to fulfill his dream. Mr Kato will send his car to Belgium in the spring of 2015 and will compete there in the Historic Car (short distance) race to be held there in September.
The current Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is located in woodlands approximately 200km east of Belgium’s capital of Brussels and is a permanent circuit with height differences of over 100km and a total length of 7km, making it a course with a high degree of difficulty. Known as a high-speed circuit, it has long been used as a venue for the F1 Grand Prix. When the Familia competed here in 1970 it was 14km long including public roads. Although the R100 Mazda Rotary Coupe of Yoshimi Katayama and Toshinori Takechi, which competed at the 24 Hours of Spa, was driving in the lead for a time, it would ultimately finish in a retirement. Although three of the four Mazdas would be forced to pull out of the race, one car driven by a combination of British drivers would place 5th overall. The Mazda Rotary Coupes are mounted with a 491cc 2-rotor 10A N/A engine capable of producing approximately 200 horsepower.
Kato’s “Spa Dream Project” will be officially kicked off at the Mazda Fan Festa 2014 to be held on December 7th (Sun) at Okayama International Circuit. At this event, Kato will be joined on stage by Mazda veteran, Masami Katakura, who was one of the drivers to compete at the 1970 24 Hours of Spa.
Photo by MZRacing