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


  • Le Mans Report
  • Challenging Spirit
  • Through the Generations

Challenging Spirit The story of the engineers who restored the 787B 20 years later

Junichi Funamoto Junichi Funamoto

1991 role: RE Design

Current role: RE Development Gr., Powertrain Technology Development Dept., Powertrain Development Div.

The sound of the rotary reverberates around Le Mans for the first time in 20 years.

At the hands of Johnny Herbert, the 787B racecar tore around the Le Mans circuit with the unique sound of the rotary engine splitting the air for the first time in 20 years. As I watched it, I was filled up with a feeling of pure happiness.

For the demonstration, we attached five cameras to the car, and we recorded some fantastic footage. During the actual race, when weight and safety is paramount, and each gram makes a difference, we could not attach any cameras. If we hadn't gone back to Le Mans for this demo run, I don't think we would ever have taken onboard footage of the car in action.

The 1991 race went smoothly

I went to Le Mans in 1991 to provide technical support. Each hour, I analyzed the fuel consumption and water temperature readings from the data recorder, and checked that we were running according to plan.

1991 was the first year that I actually went to Le Mans. I had heard how terrible things had been the year before, when we had dropped out with engine trouble, and right up until the day I left Japan, I was convinced that "racing was terrible." The day of the race arrived, and despite my pessimism, the car ran surprisingly smoothly. I think that the secret to our victory was that we managed to race for 24 hours without any major issues.

The charm of racing and what we learned

To say the race was trouble-free, is to say that development was trouble-filled. We worked long into the night and were faced with many unforeseen obstacles. Despite this, the race did not lose its charm. We could clearly see the results of our hard work in how well the race went. It gave me a powerful sense of achievement.

Of course, the date of the race is fixed, so if you don't exert yourself fully until this date, everything you have already done will come to nothing. Mazda's victory in this harsh environment was due to everyone coming together as a team. There were times when staff from Mazda and Mazdaspeed disagreed with each other, but this was only because we had a strong relationship of trust and could talk candidly with each other. Although we had some real conflicts, we all came together in pursuit of the same goal. That sense of teamwork is one of Mazda's biggest strengths.

Seiki Kawano
It is important to keep driving steadily forward until we succeed.
Seiki Kawano Interview

1991 role: ME (Motorsports) Testing & Research Gr., PT Testing & Research Dept.

Hiroyuki Nomura
Returning to Le Mans made me wish we were competing again.
Hiroyuki Nomura Interview

1991 role: Mazdaspeed Co., Ltd.