Mazda's winning association with automobile racing is marked by legendary accomplishment and extraordinary innovation. Through race sponsorship, team support, pro/amateur driver backing, and its MAZDASPEED nameplate, Mazda is accelerating the addition of new success stories to its historic racing timeline of racing accomplishment.

The Big Engine That Did
By Connie Goudinoff Downing

1989 through 1991 were significant years for Mazda racing in America. Mazda Motor of America, which had been created in 1988 from two regional American companies, shook the foundations of its racing program with a complete change in approach, personnel, equipment, and drivers. The four-rotor engine that had been successfully developed in Japan, was installed in two brand new (from the drawing board up) RX-7s for competition in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)'s GTO series. The result was the Mazda RX-7's 100th victory in IMSA competition in 1990 and the drivers and manufacturers GTO championships in 1991.

The Little Engine That Did (Part 1)
By Connie Goudinoff Downing The first rotary-engined Mazda to have real success in professional racing in America was an RX-2 campaigned by Car and Driver magazine in IMSA's (The International Motor Sport Association's) Baby Grand series in 1973.

In late 1972, editor Pat Bedard, had sold the magazine on the idea of going racing with the rotary and writing about it in the magazine. He and fellow editor, Don Sherman, had attended drivers schools and competed in showroom stock racing. They had also prepared a Pinto for IMSA but had not actually raced there. Both were former Chrysler engineers.

They got a budget (a slim one by Bedard's recollection, but perceived by the rest of the racing community as huge) and commissioned Kas Kastner and Roy Woods Racing in Gardena, California to prepare a new RX-2 for racing. Most of the actual prep was done by Ron Nash.

An Interview with Connie Goudinoff Downing
Connie Downing's Unique Perspective of Mazda Motorsports History.

Today, with a strong sports-car-DNA-infused lineup of cars and incomparable participation in motorsports of all kinds and levels, the Mazda name and motorsports are synonymous. There was a time, however, that Mazda - today the only Japanese auto company with an overall victory in the prestigious Le Mans race – was known just as an upstart car company with a peculiar rotary engine.

That was the early 70's, a time when Mazda cars had only recently entered U.S. showrooms (the 1970 RX-2 was among the first Mazda U.S. imports) and had yet connected with Americans on the virtues of the much-misunderstood rotary engine. When a few of the diminutive, but potent RX-2’s began falling into the right hands – those of capable enthusiasts, the message finally began to spread - Mazdas were excellent sports cars and the unique rotary engine was an ideal power plant for competition use.

Connie Downing has a unique perspective of this exciting chapter of Mazda's competition history. As a motorsports journalist covering American road racing during that time, she experienced first hand the private and factory racing efforts that eventually put Mazda on the motorsports map. Factor in the fact that she later married Jim Downing, one of the pioneers of Mazda racing and possibly the most successful of all time (five IMSA championships in three different classes and a class victory at Le Mans), and you’ll begin to understand the unparalleled knowledge she has on the subject.

Racing Ambition
Mazda's motorsports roots run deep: Mazda first lined up to race its cars in the 1960s. Since then, a strong global presence in the world of auto racing has done more than support its product. From Mazda's international racing debut in the 1968 84-Hour Marathon de la Route endurance competition in Nurburgring, Germany, to its victory at Le Mans with the four-rotor 787B sports racer, the company continues to demonstrate its sports car prowess across many motorsports initiatives.

"Zoom-Zoom" isn't just a catchy slogan. It's been a way of life for Mazda since it began racing its cars in the 1960s. Mazda's racing history has spanned more than three decades claiming victory in some of the world's most renowned races. And 2001 marked a pinnacle move by Mazda when it resumed professional racing in the Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car Series and inked the title sponsorship of one of the world's most demanding road courses - Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

World-Class Success
Mazda's racing spirit shines in many vehicles currently racing in American motorsports series, including the Speed World Challenge and Star Mazda Series. The Mazda Miata has dominated SCCA Showroom Stock racing since its introduction in 1989 and first national championship in 1991- first in Showroom Stock C and, more recently, in Showroom Stock B. Highlights of Mazda's racing heritage include:

Mazda's first rotary-engine sports car, the Cosmo 110S, makes its international racing debut in the 72-hour Marathon de la Route endurance competition.
Building on the success of the Cosmo 110S, Mazda unleashes the rotary-powered R-100, RX-2, RX-3, and RX-4 and piston-powered 323, 626 and MX-6 onto the motorsports circuit.
The Mazda RX-7 quickly establishes itself as the dominant car in its class in the late 1970s and 1980s. The most successful model in International Motorsports Association history, the RX-7 collects more than 100 victories.
In 1986, the second generation RX-7 is built by Racing Beat to break a class land speed record. At the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, this car sets a new record of 238.44 per hour using a turbo charged 13B Two Rotor engine.
In 1991, Mazda's four-rotor 787B captures the world's most famous endurance race, the LeMans circuit in France. Mazda is the first and only Japanese manufacturer to win this prestigious race.
Following the 1991 Le Mans, the FIA outlawed rotary engines, and Mazda entered its first piston engine for 1992. Even with alternate technology, Mazda scored an impressive fourth place finish, despite the team's developing the sports racer against incredibly tight deadlines.
In 2001, Mazda's great road course becomes Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Mazda becomes the first automaker to be the title sponsor of a major motorsports facility. Mazda plans to use this new alliance in developing and debuting its new vehicles, among other things. It's a natural fit for two heavyweights in the racing arena.

Grassroots Racing
Most professional race car drivers get their start in racing at the grassroots level. In essence, grassroots motorsports is any form of racing that is organized and controlled by the participants. This structure provides anyone with an interest in racing the ability to become involved and minimizes the costs for participants. Although cheaper than racing at the professional level, anyone who has participated in grassroots motorsports knows that footing the bill for parts, equipment, and transportation can add up quickly. Helping to reduce this cost and move enthusiasts from the stadium to the starting grid is Mazda's MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development program.