Jim Mederer, the pioneer in rotary engine development in the 1970s, left us just before the end of 2016. He was seventy-four years old. He passed peacefully at his home with Racing Beat co-partner, Takayuki Oku at his side. What he leaves behind will continue on in the hearts and minds of rotary enthusiasts and die-hards for far longer.
Jim and Takayuki created Racing Beat in 1971, and their first project was a joint effort with another media publication, a Mazda RX-2 in the IMSA Radial Sedan Series, where they supplied and built the engines that powered those cars to two wins out of five starts. There was also the Mazda RX-4 that raced at the Bonneville Salt Flats to reset the production class record to 160.3-MPH, where it was previously 139.1-MPH. They also introduced the RX-3 to the NHRA in Modified Eliminator at the Winternationals in 1977 where it won with Jim driving.
However, to just put Jim's experience as an engine builder would be unfitting. He was more than that as he was also an accomplished pilot and owned a Glasair airplane that he would use to fly to see his mother at the mountain home that he built. His work spanned into industrial with the rotary engine for seismic drilling, rotary aircraft engines, and even power generators. That generator was built in 2015 to use natural gas for the modified RENESIS engine and used heat waste for energy recovery as a project with Mazda USA and the University of California-Irvine. So, to tie Jim - and Racing Beat for that matter - to just racing would be a crime against their names.
Another major program, and one that many don't accredit to Jim and Racing Beat, was the Mazda Furai prototype. This concept car from Mazda was a running vehicle that used a three-rotor, peripheral-port 20B engine that Racing Beat built to their exceptional standards. When it came to Mazda's internal projects, Jim and Racing Beat were the go-to with many Miata, RX-7, and RX-8 projects that would lead to Mazda North American Dealers supplying Racing Beat products to their customers with Mazda's blessing. It wasn't just rotaries and Miatas, either, as they were selected as a parts manufacturer for the Mazda Performance Series Protege MP3, the MazdaSpeed Protege, Mazda3, CX-5, and Mazda6.
Jim Mederer will sorely be missed in the rotary tuning and development world. Without him and Racing Beat, the following it's garnered as the little engine that could would surely be lost or, at the best, not have the same enthusiasm we see today. However, anyone that knew him knows much more has been taken away. As Racing Beat put it, "Jim will be remembered as quiet man with a big presence, a kind and generous heart, a voice of reason during difficult times, a firm resolve in his beliefs, a competitor's spirit, a passion for all things mechanical, and a life driven and guided by his deep faith." Jim Mederer, born in 1942 and in his 72-years went on to help make the rotary and Mazda what it is today, will live on in the engines and cars he helped develop. We are saddened but we will all continue to remember.