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

Seiki Kawano Seiki Kawano

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

Current role: Technical Specialist, Technology Research Center

Reawaking the awesome 787B and its screaming 4-rotor rotary engine

By successfully organizing the demonstration run at Le Mans, I felt that we had in a way repaid a lot of people. Winning Le Mans was a long a difficult road, and we could not have done it without the cooperation of several related departments and many outside suppliers. When we held the shakedown test in May 2011 at the Mine Proving Ground, and I heard the sound of the 787B's 4-rotor rotary engine, I was awed once more by its strength and fury.

Le Mans taught us the importance of never giving up

20 years ago, I was working in ME Testing & Research, trying to improve the 4-rotor engine's performance (power and torque) and leading reliability development. We ran the rotary every day, conducting bench tests, and sometimes we worked late into the evening. Technically improving the 4-rotor engine's reliability was extremely challenging.

When Mazda won Le Mans in 1991, we were conducting durability tests on the exhaust system until the day before the race, when we sent our final specifications to the team in France. Winning a race is definitely brilliant and something to celebrate, but as an engineer I felt that the sense of satisfaction from achieving the goals I had set myself was even greater. Through this experience, I learned that working in R&D means to never stop challenging, and it is important to keep driving steadily forward until we succeed.

To me, the cohesiveness in the team was one of the factors that led Mazda to victory at Le Mans. Staff in various departments within Mazda and at our suppliers came together and united our collective strength. Thanks to their efforts, we were able to prepare fully for the race despite the limited development period. It is a true example of the power of One Mazda and it helped to breakdown interdepartmental barriers and improve our work processes even after Le Mans. I believe its affects are still helping us today.

Mazda's spirit to challenge and persevere

Currently, I work in the Advanced Vehicle System Research Field, researching eco-friendly vehicles that use our hydrogen rotary engine. When developing new technologies there is little existing research to help us, but like the rotary engine development, we find that hard labor transforms into great pleasure. When we attempt new challenges, we persevere until the end. I believe this is Mazda's true spirit, and an important strength we need to sustain.

We are incredibly proud that we wrote Mazda into the Le Mans history books as the first Japanese car to win. I hope this history inspires the future generations to continue developing breakthrough technologies.

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

1991 role: Mazdaspeed Co., Ltd.

Junichi Funamoto
Mazda's victory was due to everyone coming together as a team.
Junichi Funamoto Interview

1991 role: RE Design