At a semi-private Mazda event today (more on the event tomorrow) I was lucky enough to be in the presence of a car that helped start the Rotary legend in America, the 1973 Mazda RX-2 campaigned in the IMSA “Baby Grand” series by Car & Driver. This car was one of the first rotaries to see major motorsport competition in the states and is the car that started the conversation of rotary engines in the American motorsports community.
Driven by Pat Bedard (who had recently sold Car & Driver magazine at the time) and his buddy Don Sherman (an editor for the magazine) the team enlisted a then little known shop in Anaheim, CA called Racing Beat to prep their RX-2 for battle. Stock, the RX-2 made 98hp, they felt they needed at least 160hp to be competitive in their class. Racing Beat exceeded expectations and managed to squeeze 198hp out of the 12A rotary engine.
It was really cool for me to get a close up look at one of the cars that started it all for Mazda. Looking inside the car and seeing nothing but a cage, steering wheel, and a few gauges reminded me of how pure racing was back then.
If you want to know more about the IMSA RX-2 Mazda has a lengthy but interesting article that covers the entire history of the car.