Mazda 787B - 1991

Cette collection est une adaptation de 24H Le Mans ® Le auto delle corsa più leggendaria al mondo Éditeur : Centauria Editore s.r.l. 

Mazda 787B

Any win at Le Mans is a page in history, but that of the Mazda 787B in 1991 has two reasons for being considered a historic milestone: it was the first victory by a Japanese manufacturer on the Sarthe circuit, and it was the Wankel rotary engine's most successful achievement.

Mazda's success was almost unexpected, following years of testing, thanks to technological refinements and a little help from the regulations. The same regulations that banned Wankel engines in 1992. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

The 1991 victory was achieved thanks to the proverbial patience of the Orientals, since the 787 was only the latest descendant of a dynasty of prototypes created ten years earlier to demonstrate the validity of the rotary piston engine in the homonymous category of the IMSA series, similar to Group C but more focused on performance than efficiency. The 787, which made its debut at Le Mans in 1990 after appearing at the rain-soaked 1,000 km of Mount Fuji, was mainly new in terms of its chassis, built in England on the base of a new carbon structure, and its R26B engine.

This unit was made up of four 654 cm3 rotors for a total of 2,626 cm3 , but its operating principle was similar to that of a conventional engine, with a calculated cylinder capacity of almost 4.7 litres. The engineers limited the engine speed to 9,000 rpm, at which point it delivered more than 700 bhp and 600 Nm torque, to ensure the reliability of the cars. Both 787s withdrew from the race, one because of lubrication problems and the other because of a cooling fault that led to an electrical failure. The Japanese brand then entered the 787s in other global events in the Sports Car Championship, where they finished far from the highest positions on the podium.

 1.  The winning car in 1991 was the only one of the three Mazdas to be painted in the colours of sponsor Renown, a clothing manufacturer. The other two were in white.

2. The 787B was difficult to distinguish externally from the 787 because the improvements were more technical than aerodynamic. However, the rear wing was different.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

In 1991, the 787, previously homologated as a GTP (Grand Touring Prototype), was admitted to the C2 category which, compared to the C1 reserved for naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre engines, required a limited fuel quantity and a minimum weight of 1,000 kg instead of 750. However, Mazda put pressure on the AC0 and succeeded in obtaining a waiver authorising a lower weight, an arrangement which also benefited the other C2s. 

1. The technical evolution implemented in the 787B involved the adoption of new carbon ceramic brakes produced by the Italian company Brembo.

2. The 787B of 1991 was the last Wankel-engined car to compete at Le Mans. From the following year onwards, this technical solution was banned by the regulations.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

This time, the team began the season in March, entering one car in the World Sportscar Championship (WSC) and two in the Japan Prototype Championship, where the first 787B made an impression at Suzuka and Mount Fuji by finishing a respectable sixth place.

This version had its suspension revised with larger wheels but, above all, it had solved its reliability problems. It arrived at Le Mans with a second 787B, just completed, and with the car already entered in the WSC championship. The second 787B (chassis 002), number 55, driven by Englishman Johnny Herbert, German Volker Weidler and Frenchman Bertrand Gachot, was the best of the three in qualifying, setting the twelfth fastest time. In the race, it maintained a steady pace, and when its rivals encountered problems with reliability, the Mazdaspeed team realised that it had a good chance to win.

After the withdrawal of the Peugeot 905 and the Porsche 962, the Mercedes was forced to slow down to reduce fuel consumption. The No. 5 car claimed the lead from the Jaguar XJ14 in the 22nd hour and held it until the end of the race (362 laps). The No. 18 787B and the No. 56 787 finished sixth and eighth respectively.

A. The R26B engine benefits from variable-length intake manifolds and three spark plugs per rotor to improve combustion and reduce fuel consumption.  © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

B. Other details that distinguished the 787B from its predecessor were the 18-inch wheels. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

C. Mazda drivers Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot (in orange overalls) celebrated their victory on the podium alongside their rivals from the Jaguar TWR team. Johnny Herbert was absent due to illness. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

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