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Goodwood FOS 2015: “And Now A Word From Our Sponsor”

Chris Haining June 27, 2015 Goodwood, Hooniverse Goes To... 1 Comment

Goodwood Festival Of Speed.  FoS 2015. Goodwood, England. 25th - 28th June 2015.  Photo: Drew Gibson

We may as well get it over with, it’s going to be pretty tricky to overlook Mazda this year at Goodwood. But then, why would we want to?

The central feature which is Goodwood crowning glory belongs to Mazda this year, a sky-scraping sculpture by Gerry Judah. It’s a magnificent… screw it, awesome spectacle and one which seems wholly appropriate with which to celebrate 50 years of Mazda’s participation in motorsport.

That’s a 787B up there, and it shares its lofty pose with the LM55 concept, conceived by Mazda to appear on Gran Turismo 6. At a stroke it pays homage to the 787B and also increases the relevance of the brand to a whole new generation of on-line octane addicts. Its sole purpose is to remind the world that Mazda Cares About Motorsports. And here at Goodwood they’ve brought along plenty of material evidence to back that up.

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Of course, we mention Fast Mazdas and we immediately think of Rotary engines, though of course Mazda is currently without a Wankel-motivated machine on the world market, which seems a pity. Since Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda CEO, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the rotary engine, or at least “So long as I remain involved with this company…”

Maybe we’re just waiting for the next one.

Whatever their limitations for daily town and country use, over the decades Mazda certainly proved that rotaries can be made to do astonishing things against the stopwatch, and this year at Goodwood they have certainly pulled out all the stops to remind us how.

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As an ’80s child the 757 is the exact shape I want my Le Mans car to be. That wide, low, squat shape complete with bubble canopy and serious wing was pretty much etched permanently on my highly impressionable infant mind. Of course, at the same time there was the Porsche 962 and many other very credible (and actually pretty similar looking) machines, bit the 757 was always the one I remembered. Perhaps because it shared its name with a Boeing.

Spending time with this car today I love it all the more.

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Access to the paddock here at Goodwood is pretty unrestricted, assuming you don’t make a nuisance of yourself. This means that you can get up close and personal to many of the cars participating over the weekend.

So no more gasping at photos in glossy books. I can stare into cockpits and stare into ducts. I love this. See, I’m not *whispers* a huge foll0wer of motorsport, but I can sure appreciate the machinery. I appreciate it big time. And when looking down a cooling tunnel on an ’80s endurance racer I’m starkly reminded of what elevates such craft beyond “car” to something altogether more esoteric and rarefied. Back when I was little I loved these things for what they looked like, then, in my teens, I loved them for what they did.

Now I find myself appreciating how they’re built and what makes them work. And in this paddock I can see it all.

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So 757 begat 767, and ultimately sired 787, which turned out to be something of a legend. It was the 787B which proved that a rotary engine could provide both the power and the reliability to take on, and ultimately beat, the world’s greatest reciprocating piston engines.

Actually…

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This was the car that showed us.

This very one, race no. 55 took the chequered flag at Le Mans in 1991 with Johnny Herbert at the wheel, having covered 4932.2 km before victory was declared. Reliability had been a non-issue, with merely a blown headlamp bulb to have to deal with. Oh, and a wheel bearing was changed as a precaution due to overheating fears.

So that was that. A long list of firsts. First Japanese Le Mans win, first Rotary Le Mans Win, first with carbon brakes and a carbon clutch, and the first Mazda racer to feature telemetry. After the victory the firm realised the significance of this machine and immediately wrapped it up in cotton wool and spirited it away to their museum. But it was kept in working order.

This weekend the 787B, among other Group-C racers will participate in the hillclimb here at Goodwood. It remains to be seen just how competitively it’ll be driven, but certainly all the sight, sound and spectacle will be there for the taking. We may not really be supposed to touch them in the paddock, but we can look, hear, smell and taste these fantastic machines in action.

I feel like I’m 4, 14 and 34 years old all at the same time.

(Opening photo copyright Drew Gibson, courtesy of Goodwood. All other images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)

  • Rover 1

    Maybe we’ll see some sort of ‘new RX7’ based on the ND MX5 with the new rotor motor ?