Mazda North American Operations Weekend Wrap Up

IRVINE, Calif., Aug. 21, 2012 – Mazda North American Operations is participating in the 2012 running of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, held annually at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in the hills near the picturesque seaside town of Monterey.  As a company with a near-unrivalled heritage of motorsport success, as well as the only Asian car company to ever win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mazda is participating in this year’s event with three significant vehicles from its heritage collection, a 1990 Mazda 787 Group C, a 1991 Mazda RX-7 IMSA GTO and a 1992 Mazda RX-792P IMSA GTP.

After two weekends of competition – the so-called “Pre-Reunion” event which serves as a precursor and warm-up to the main event, and the big show itself, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – the sound of more than 550 racing engines has subsided and the racecars and trailers have all departed the paddock, with dreams of success next year.  For Mazda, the opportunity to showcase the company’s incredible four-rotor rotary-powered heritage racecars at its namesake racing facility is a natural – there’s nothing like the sound of a Mazda four-rotor racing engine at 9,000 rpm, as racing fans the world-over know.

Vehicle details and race results:

- 1990 Mazda 787 (driver: Robert Davis):  This car is chassis number 787-002, built for the 1990 running of the Le Mans 24 hour race.  After challenges in the qualifying sessions, Davis started the first race in tenth place.  A great start, taking advantage of a couple of competitors, moved Davis into a strong seventh at the finish.  With the results of the first race setting the grid for the main Rolex afternoon race, Davis rolled to the line in seventh.  As the pack entered turn three on the first lap, an inopportune passing attempt from another competitor did not work out well, and Davis was hit in the right side.  With only cosmetic damage to his iconic racecar, he bounced back from the incident to drive a competitive and aggressive race, finally crossing the line in ninth.

- 1991 Mazda RX-7 (driver: Jeremy Barnes):  This car is chassis number GTO-001, built to compete in the IMSA GTO championship.  Barnes is driving the lowest-powered car in the class, as the rules to which his production-based GTO-class car were built in the day meant greater restrictions than his GTP and Group C competitors.  That said, after starting race one in fifth place, Barnes took advantage of a couple of other competitors’ misfortunes to finish a surprise third.  After the race, the crew discovered an issue with the clutch, meaning Barnes would be handicapped for the race, running clutchless.  Starting the Rolex race in third, Barnes dropped a few positions to the higher-horsepower GTP and Group C cars, but still had a great dice with the faster machinery throughout.  He finished the race in eighth position.

- 1992 Mazda RX-792P (driver: Weldon Munsey): This car is chassis number GTP-001, built to compete in the IMSA GTP championship.  Munsey started race one on the pole, and was a full 20-plus seconds clear of the field, when, as he cleared the third turn on the last lap of the race, the unthinkable happened – he ran out of fuel!  Munsey coasted to a stop at turn five, to watch the field stream past.  His DNF (Did Not Finish) result meant that he’d start the Rolex race from 11th place, ahead only of those cars he’d already lapped.  Munsey got the jump at the drop of the green flag, picking up three positions as the pack cleared turn two and streamed down to three.  Unfortunately, bad luck continued to follow him, as the same competitor who hit Davis came to a complete stop in the middle of the track, leaving Munsey nowhere to go.  He hit the errant car, causing damage to the right-front corner of the nose.  Munsey restarted the race just one place from the back, and, despite the damage, managed to drive all the way up to sixth place by the time the checkered flag dropped, turning the fastest lap of the race in the process.

By any definition, the weekend was a success for the fans, for the company and for the racecars themselves.  Of particular note when considering Mazda’s participation in this event, as well as the company’s participation in any events with its heritage racecars, is that not only are the drivers employees of Mazda North American Operations (Davis is the Senior VP of US Operations, Barnes is the Director of PR and Munsey is the Manager of Dealer Affairs), but that all the pre-event preparation and at-track maintenance and preparation also is performed by company employees, all of whom donate their time to support these significant and historic vehicles. 

As the 2012 running of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion closes, plans are in-place for these three iconic cars to return to the track again next year, to continue to thrill fans with their distinctive sound and puff of flame out of the exhaust on every downshift.

Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through nearly 700 dealers.  Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.