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

Report&Interviews

  • Le Mans Report
  • Challenging Spirit
  • Through the Generations

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. [2/3]

The Mazda team begins pushing the 787B

The Mazda team begins pushing the 787B

The Mazda 787B moves down the pit lane to the world's greatest stage

When called by a racetrack official, the Mazda team begins pushing the 787B backwards down the pit lane to the final corner. The driver, Johnny Herbert, is wearing the same black and orange "Charge" racing suit that he wore in 1991. All the preparations are complete.

The conditions are just right; the Le Mans control tower can be seen in the distance, while overhead is a clear blue sky and pure white clouds. The stage is perfect!

The stage is perfect!

The stage is perfect!

The rotary engine sound reverberates around the Circuit de la Sarthe

Johnny Herbert pushes the start button and the rotary roars as if it has been waiting impatiently. It is fully warmed up and ready to go. Everyone is waiting on the starter's orders.

An official gives the "Go" sign, Johnny feathers the throttle, and the 787B begins to glide forward. It accelerates powerfully toward the final corner and disappears, leaving behind nothing but the echo of the raspy engine. The Mazda team celebrates a successful start with pumping fists, shouts and hands raised to the heavens.

The rotary engine sound reverberates around the circuit

The rotary engine sound reverberates around the circuit

A moment later, the team is running back to the paddock to await the return of the 787B. We watch as the 787B appears on a large screen erected beside the final corner. We see the orange and green car come tearing out of Indianapolis. It quickly reaches the final corner and enters the main straight in front of the stands. Johnny opens the throttle and the shrill scream of the engine splits the air as the 787B flashes past.

The feeling is difficult to describe. The 787B and the unmistakable sound of the rotary engine have come back to Le Mans! I am overcome with emotion and excitement. I whoop and madly applaud the 787B. All the Mazda team looks overcome with emotion, excitement and the sense of achievement. On top of this, the crowd of 230,000 fans stands up and gives the 787B a standing ovation.

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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.