Week 7 – Mazda 787B Race Car


 Car of the Week 7 

Manufacturer : Mazda
Advanced Composite Technology

Designer(s) Nigel Stroud

Races : 21
Wins : 1

Technical specifications

Chassis Kevlar and carbon composite monocoque

Suspension (front) Double wishbone pullrod operated inboard Bilstein spring dampers.

Suspension (rear) Double wishbone top rocker-operated inboard spring dampers.

Axle track 1530/1450 mm (787)
1534/1504 mm (787B)

Wheelbase 2640 mm (787)
2662 mm (787B)

Engine Mazda R26B 2616 cc 4-rotor naturally aspirated. Mid-engined, longitudinally mounted.

Transmission Mazda/Porsche 5-speed manual
Weight 830 kg (1831 lb)

Fuel Idemitsu

Tyres Dunlop 300-640×18/355-710×18 (275-620×17/330-700×17)

The Mazda 787 and its derivative 787B were Group C sports prototype racing cars built by Mazda for use in the World Sportscar Championship, All Japan Sports Prototype Championship, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1990 to 1991. Designed to combine a mixture of the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) Group C regulations with the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GTP regulations, the 787s were the last Wankel rotary-powered racing cars to compete in the World and Japanese championships, using Mazda’s R26B engine.

Although the 787 and 787B lacked the single lap pace of World Championship competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Porsche, as well Japanese Championship competitors Nissan and Toyota, the Mazdas had reliability which allowed them to contend for their respective championships. The reliability of the cars eventually paid off in 1991 when a 787B driven by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler, and Bertrand Gachot went on to victory in the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans. This remains as of 2011 the only victory by a Japanese marque as well as the only victory by a car not using a reciprocating engine design.

A total of two 787s were constructed in 1990, while three newer specification 787Bs were built in 1991.

At its heart, the initial design of the 787 was an evolution of the 767 and 767B designs that had been used by Mazda in 1988 and 1989. Many mechanical elements of the 767 were carried over by Nigel Stroud when he designed the 787, but with some notable exceptions.

Foremost was the replacement of the 767’s 13J Wankel rotary engine. In its place, the brand new R26B was installed. The custom-built R26B featured a nearly identical layout and displacement, but included new design elements such as continuously variable intakes and three spark plugs per rotor instead of the 20B’s two. This allowed for a maximum power output of 900 hp (670 kW) which was limited to 700 hp during the race for longevity. Porsche’s five-speed gearbox was retained.

Other modifications made to the 787’s design included a relocation of the radiators. Initially placed beside the cockpit on the 767, a new single radiator was integrated into the nose of the 787. Air would flow from the blunt nose of the car, underneath the bodywork and through the radiator, before exiting at the top of the nose. A Gurney flap was affixed to the radiator exit to increase front end downforce. This new radiator location also meant a redesign of the doors of the car, where the old radiator design had been located. The intake in front of the door and exit behind were no longer necessary and were thus not included, giving the 787 a smoother bodywork design on top. To aid in rear engine and brake cooling, intakes were placed on the side bodywork, immediately above the exhaust cooling vents.

As before, Stroud’s monocoque design was built from carbon and kevlar by Advanced Composite Technology in the United Kingdom. Carbon fiber body panels were affixed to the two initial chassis that were built in 1990.

The 59th 24 Hours of Le Mans which was round 4 of the World Sportscar Championship was the first time the race took place at the entirely new pit complex much to the pleasure of pit crews and drivers, after several years of having to use the notoriously cramped area, which became associated with the film of the same name.

Mazdaspeed entered three cars and a spare, one of them was a 787 from the previous year, numbered #56, driven by Dieudonné, Yorino and Terada and two brand new 787B’s. One of them was driven by Maurizio Sandro Sala who replaced the newly retired Katayama, Johansson and Kennedy numbered #18 (001) and the #55 (002) car of Weidler, Herbert and Gachot making its only appearance in its only race.

Unlike the other two cars which were painted in their standard blue stripes on white livery, #55 had an outrageous bright orange and green scheme in honour of a main sponsor, Renown, a Japanese clothing manufacturer who had been supporting the team since 1988 by providing all their clothing for the events.

The spare car was another 787 from the previous year and also qualified, but took no further part in the event.

Mazda was not the favorite to win, but the three Mazdas started on 19th (#55), 23rd (#18) and 30th (#56), despite being the 12th, 17th and 24th fastest qualifiers respectively. The new 3.5 litre cars were given the first grid positions, moving everyone else back by seven places. On the day before the race, team manager Ohashi decided to drop his usual conservative strategy and instructed the drivers of the #55 car to drive as if it were a short sprint race.

The decision was made based on the reliability of the cars demonstrated in the Paul Ricard tests, as well as the car’s exceptional fuel economy, which meant that the carefully learned driving techniques intended to preserve the fuel allowance were no longer a critical part of the team’s strategy.

In the early stages of the race, the #55 car made its way to third place with the #18 car behind it 2 laps down. The #18 had a lower gear ratio setup meaning the car used less fuel but was 20 km/h (12 mph) slower. The #55 would by night, move into second place when the Mercedes-Benz C11 of Michael Schumacher, Fritz Kreutzpointner and Karl Wendlinger spun off and later pitted with a gearbox problem. It soon became obvious that the leading car had slowed down to preserve its fuel allowance and an air of disbelief spread around the Mazda pit as it became obvious with six hours to run that there was a chance of victory.

At the 22nd hour, fate took a hand and the #55 car finally took the lead after the C11 of Alain Ferte was forced to pit with mechanical problems. At the last pit-stop, Herbert asked to stay in the car, and went on to take the 787B across the finish line first, completing 362 laps and covering 4932.2 km ( both new records for the recently modified circuit). The two other cars finished sixth (#18) and eighth (#56). Three Jaguar XJR-12s and a sole Mercedes filled out positions two through five.

Herbert was so dehydrated that he had to be assisted out of the car and taken to the circuit’s medical centre. As a result, he was unable to make it to the podium, leaving Weidler and Gatchot to take up the celebrations. He later commented in a magazine interview that some “dodgy” spaghetti he ate before his shift was the cause, but it is more likely that his drink bottle wasn’t replenished when he chose to stay in the car for the remaining 40 minutes of the race. The replacement driver would normally carry his own bottle into the car during a changeover as they all had their own preferred drinks.

The winning car ran without a hitch apart from a blown headlamp bulb and a precautionary rear wheel bearing change on the driver’s side of the car, when a regular check during a pit-stop showed it to be overheating slightly.

Gran Turismo 5 Car Description

Mazda began competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1974 and had respectable success with their rotary engine. However , with the advent of regulations against rotary engines , Mazda´s last chance was approaching. That is when they developed the 787.

The 787 as fitted with an R26B , a new 4 rotor rotary engine boasting a maximum output of 690BHP. To withstand this power , the frame was witched from a conventional aluminum honeycomb construction to a carbon composite , lowering weight and increasing rigidity.

Furthermore , its width was narrowed  to lower aerodynamic resistance , and a larfe radiator was equipped in the nose . This 787 as entered first in the 1990 24 Hour of Le Mans , but encountered numerous troubles and suffered an unexpected defeat. Overcoming this disappointment , Mazda thoroughly improved the 787 and sent newly evolved 787B to Le Mans in the following year .

In this Year , Peugeot had entered the race with their 905 that was developed utilizing all their resources , and the presence of veteran teams from Mercedes Benz , Jaguar and Porsche made for a tough race . However , of the two 787Bs in the race , this 55#  car driven by the team of Bertrand Gachot , Johnny Herbert and Volker Weidler began the race in 19th place and gradually worked its way up the ranks , taking the lead just three hours before the end of the race .

The 787B raced on without incident and took the checkered flag with 362 laps , beating the previous year´s record . This was a historic , first-ever overall Le Mans victory of a Japonese manufacturer .
Mazda earned this great victory in their 18th year of participation .

Sources : Gran Turismo 5 and Wikipedia ( Pictures from Gran Turismo 5 photomode )

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  1. Pingback: GTOR Car of the Week – Mazda 787B Race Car | GT Online Racing

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