To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mazda MX-5, ten of the iconic roadsters took part in the Drivers’Parade held in Le Mans on Friday the 13th of June, 2014. Seated in the passenger seat of each Mazda MX-5 was a junior or senior high school student from the Tohoku region of Japan-participants in the Mazda-sponsored Support Our Kids program. The streets were lined with race fans and Le-Mans residents, and the youths responded to their cheers of the crowds with smiles and waves. The very next day, those same students also participated in a MX-5 parade lap before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The Support Our Kids program aims to help children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake to become self-reliant and independent. Each year, the program sends ten junior and senior high school students to Le Mans, France for two weeks. This year, the students arrived in Le Mans on June 5, and participated in various activities such as French languages classes, cultural experiences, and playing sports with local youths. On the weekend they had the opportunity to both watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans and to take part in the Mazda MX-5 25th anniversary parade.
Some of the ten MX-5s that took part in the parade were provided by Mazda France, while others were owned by members of local MX-5 owners’clubs. At Place des Jacobins, starting point for the parade held in the city, a cheer arose from the crowd when the purpose of the parade and the intentions of the Support Our Kids program were explained to the audience. One of the students commented, “I was nervous at first, but people on both sides of the street greeted us with calls of, ‘Konnichiwa!’ It made me very happy.”
The parade run the next day took place just before the start of the famous 24-hour race. The students again got into the passenger seat of the MX-5, this time for a lap around the 13.6 km Circuit de la Sarthe.
Next, the students watched the 24-Hour of Le Mans. For most of them, it was their first time to see a car race. One student said, “I was thrilled and very surprised to see how excited the spectators got. Talking to grown-ups from France and America, as well as meeting Yojiro Terada was a great experience for me.” Another student excitedly commented, “I feel so lucky I got to experience the parade in an open-top sport car. I will never forget excitement and the feeling of the wind on my face.”