Twenty years ago this month, Mazda became the first - and to date, the only - Japanese automaker to score an overall win at the world's most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Endurance road-racing has been the cornerstone of Mazda's participation in motorsports since 1968, as it is the ultimate demonstration of quality, durability and reliability.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company's overall win, a dedicated team of Mazda Motor Corporation employees has prepared the striking looking and sounding, 700-horsepower, four-rotor Mazda 787B to once again take to the track at speed. This will not be a race, but demonstration laps to honor the achievement and to thank the fans for 40 years of support for Mazda and the rotary engine in competition.
Behind the wheel will be a familiar face - familiar to a global audience of TV and movie fans, and familiar to North American road racing fans - Patrick Dempsey. Patrick will squeeze in the trip to France between racing his own Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 at Watkins Glen the week before and at Road America two weeks later. Dempsey scored a personal-best race-finish earlier this year with third-place at the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona.
Also behind the wheel during the Le Mans weekend will be Johnny Herbert. Herbert, one of the three young racers who drove the Mazda 787B to victory, and was competing in Formula 1 at the time, will be reunited with the car that he drove into the history books for the first time since that June day.
Patrick Dempsey: "I've been a member of the MAZDASPEED family since 2007. I race a three-rotor RX-8 in Grand-Am GT competition, and Mazda allowed me to drive the amazing RX-792P at Mazda Raceway last year. I love the heritage of the sport, and to be given the chance to drive THE car that scored the highest-visibility win in Mazda's storied racing history is indeed an honor."
John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations: "This is a very special occasion for Mazda. This will bring together our most iconic prototype with our most recognizable racer. Over the past several years we have come to know Patrick as someone who is deeply committed the sport, and very knowledgeable about the heritage involved. We wouldn't allow just any racer to drive our masterpiece. Patrick earned this honor."
Seita Kanai, Director and Executive Vice President, Mazda Motor Corporation: "In 1991, Mazda was very much an underdog team competing against Mercedes and Jaguar. This win was the racing embodiment of our expression - the will to never give up. We are pleased to be able to share this car once again with our many fans and employees around the world."
Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
Consumer information can be found at www.mazdausa.com Racers and fans can follow and participate in the action on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mazdaspeed-motorsports