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Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

The Challenger Spirit of Mazda Motorsports Lives on With the Global MX-5 Cup Car

Jonathan Wong
Jun 18, 2019
Photographer: Darren Martin

Located beneath the Research and Development department of Mazda North American Operations headquarters lies some of the automotive world's greatest machines, from eras both past and present. Known formally as the Mazda Heritage Collection, these historic race and street cars exemplify the "Zoom Zoom" company mantra in their purest (even purist, we might add) form, demonstrating decades of engineering progress and a desire to win. We were recently given access to roam this garage to spend some time with what some would argue is one of Mazda's most cherished prizes, the 767B, and what's currently one of its hottest tickets in grassroots racing, the MX-5 Cup Car, to see how far the Mazda Motorsports program has come and where the company hopes to see it thrive.

Mazda Heritage Collection Race Cars 01 Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
Mazda Heritage Collection Race Cars 02 Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

THE ICON

Mazda 787B Front Bumper Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
Mazda 787B Side Profile Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

This car needs little introduction. Any longtime reader of Super Street knows what this is, and if you aren't familiar with it, it's about time you got yourself up to speed. The 767B is the stuff motorsports legend is made of. Built by Mazdaspeed 30 years ago to compete in the IMSA-spec GTP Class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this prototype racer (of which there are three in existence) replaced its predecessor, the 757. Although the 767B was a racing success story, it never claimed a victory. However, it lead to the development of the 787B, which did become the first (and only) Japanese manufacturer win at Le Mans in 1991.

Essentially a spaceship on wheels, the 767B is easily spotted at events and draws you quickly in like a Star Destroyer tractor beam. Since it's low to the ground with delicious curves, one can only imagine the feeling its single-occupancy-cockpit pilots felt when competing on some of the world's most storied racetracks. The orange and green livery is obviously its most striking feature (the first Mazda to carry the orange and green argyle livery for Japanese clothing company Renown), and aerodynamics are certainly functional while providing the ultimate in form. There are loads of carbon fiber and Kevlar all around, which we love. At its core lies the aforementioned 13J Wankel rotary, a four-rotor variation (the first of its kind to be used in a Mazda race car) of the Type 13 boasting 600 hp and a 9,000-rpm redline, working in unison with a specially modified five-speed sequential transmission. These days, if you're lucky enough, you can catch a glimpse of the 767B at historic events, as it's sometimes driven at Goodwood Festival of Speed, and, in recent years, it's been able to fetch a mighty high price tag at auction (for example, its sister car, Mazda 767 chassis no. 003, sold for $1.75 million at a Gooding auction at Amelia Island in 2017).

Mazda 787B Side Rear View Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
Mazda 787B Centerlock Mesh Wheel Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

While the 767B is indicative of Mazda Motorsports' racing past, its role goes beyond helping its successors achieve victory. In fact, the evolution of the racing program leads us to its most important role today: amateur/grassroots racing.

THE SPIRIT OF RACING LIVES ON

Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Passenger Side Rear View Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

The very core of Mazda Motorsports can be traced back to the company's Japanese hometown roots. Hiroshima is known for its "Challenger Spirit," which dates back to the rebuilding of the city. Mazda Motorsports' Efrain Olivares explains: "Challenger Spirit is what pushes Mazda to prevail against all odds, to be creative. This is why Mazda developed the rotary engine, won at Le Mans with the rotary engine, and designed the Miata at a time when the affordable sports car was no longer a thing." Because of Mazda's willingness to test itself in a motorsports environment, a line can be drawn from the Le Mans program to its modern-day MX-5 Cup, even though the challenges of competing in each are vastly different from one another.

Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Interior Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Racetech Bucket Seat Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

Whereas the Le Mans program reflects Mazda's corporate Challenger Spirit, the Global MX-5 Cup car gives racers the opportunity to live out their own Challenger Spirit. Supported by Japan for the U.S. market, MX-5 Cup exists on both a professional and amateur grassroots level, a series not only for those who want to make racing a full-time gig but for people from all walks of life. You purchase your ND2 MX-5 Miata at a Mazda dealership, then ship it off to the crew at Long Road Racing in Statesville, North Carolina, who give it the Global MX-5 Cup race car treatment. Since the '19 model received a horsepower increase (from 155 hp to 181 hp) and a higher 7,500-rpm redline (up from 6,700 rpm), the older ND1 can be converted to accept the newer engine from the ND2. Essentially, you're building a buff street car with performance bolt-ons, including an ECU upgrade and larger brakes, to name a few, as there are several configurations you can choose, depending on how serious you want to take your racing.

Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Rollbar Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Volk Wheel Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now

Mazda Motorsports' goal with the Global MX-5 Cup program (Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, if we want to get technical) is to do more of the same: continue to deliver a great racing platform to racers in a professional environment while offering entertainment for the fans (you can stream races live on mazdamotorsports.com or view content post-event on the Mazda USA YouTube channel). If history is known for repeating itself, you can bet the Global MX-5 Cup car will join the ranks of its 767B brethren in almost no time at all.

Mazda MX 5 Cup Car Driver Side Front View Photo 19/19   |   Zoom Zoom: Then & Now
By Jonathan Wong
507 Articles

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