Victory at Le Mans 20th Anniversary - Never Stop Challenging - Mazda's Enduring Spirit

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Returning to Le Mans After 20 Years Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Mazda's sports car development program manager, reports on Mazda's latest trip to Le Mans. [1/3]

The Circuit de la Sarthe's Entrance

The Circuit de la Sarthe's Entrance

Saturday, June 11, 2011 - On the way to the Circuit de la Sarthe

Today, the 787B is finally making its return to the Le Mans racetrack. I leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and make my way toward the Circuit de la Sarthe. When I arrive, the Mazda team members are all busy making preparations in Mazda's display area.

At 11 o'clock, the 787B is ready to be moved to the track. A truck carries the racecar into the paddock, and as the team unload it they are surrounded by a crowd of journalists and race fans. The 787B's rear cowl is removed, exposing the famous rotary engine. Finally, the engineers are satisfied and its time to begin warming up the engine.

The Mazda 787B becomes the center of attention

The Mazda 787B becomes the center of attention

The Mazda 787B becomes the center of attention

The start button is pushed and the four-rotor rotary engine kicks into life. The sound of the engine attracts even more onlookers. The engine sound quickly becomes a dry rattle. Then the engineers begin blipping the engine and it barks repeatedly.

There are sharp intakes of breath from the crowd as they watch. Then the engine is revved hard one final time and shut-off. In the sudden silence, a round of applause immediately breaks out in the crowd. It seems to be saying, "Now the formalities are over, it's time for the real drama and excitement to begin."

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Mazda MX-5 Program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto
Mazda MX-5 Program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto

Yamamoto-san joined Mazda in 1973 and began his career in rotary engine development and motor sports. He moved to program management and worked on the vehicle development programs for the RX-7, Millenia, second-generation MX-5/Roadster, and the Tribute. In 2002, he became Deputy Program Manager for development of the third-generation MX-5/Roadster. He was appointed Program Manager for sports cars in 2007.