787B returns to Le Mans

Mazda celebrated the 20th anniversary of the legendary 787B’s victory at Le Mans last weekend, taking the old girl back to the Circuit de la Sarthe for a demonstration run.

Briton Johnny Herbert, who was one of three drivers at the wheel during the Mazda’s 1991 victory, stretched its legs in front of a thrilled crowd.

The 787B is powered by the R26B peripheral-ported quad-rotor engine, producing around 515kW at a stratospheric 9000rpm. Despite the peaky delivery, drivers had only five ratios to play with to keep the 830kg monster on the boil.

Mazda elected to restore the 787B for its 20th anniversary celebrations, assembling a number of the race car’s original Mazdaspeed engineers to make up the crew.

After the work was done, three former factory Mazda race drivers completed test runs at the Mine Proving Ground.

The 787B (an evolution of the 787 raced in 1990) remains the only Japanese car to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Wankel engines were subsequently outlawed from the 1992 season. As a result, the 787B remains something of a cult figure among rotary enthusiasts.

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