Soon after Audi made history this weekend by achieving the first 24 Hours Of LeMans victory with a hybrid race car, Mazda has announced that they will take their knew “Skyactiv-D” race engine to next year’s LeMans race with Dempsey Racing’s LMP2 class program. The Skyactiv-D race engine is the result of a partnership between Mazdaspeed Motorsports and SpeedSource racing. When all was said and done SpeedSource started with a stock Skyactive-D 2.2 liter engine block and turned it into a dual-staged turbo’d beast. Although I am not sure of the performance numbers I am sure this engine is more than capable of hanging with the big dogs in the class. I personally can’t wait to see Mazda run in the prototype class at LeMans again!
MAZDA ANNOUNCES SKYACTIV-D CLEAN DIESEL ENGINE FOR 2013 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
- DEMPSEY RACING PLANNING TO BE FIRST CUSTOMER FOR NEW ENGINE –
June 16, 2012 (LE MANS, FRANCE) Mazda Motorsports today announced that it will sell racing versions of its new SKYACTIV-D CLEAN DIESEL engines to teams competing in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class of racing’s greatest endurance challenge – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Le Mans engine program will make its debut at the 2013 running of the race. Mazda was the first – and to this day, remains the only – Asian manufacturer to score an overall win at the race, in 1991.
“This reopens our love affair with Le Mans,” said Jay Amestoy, Vice President of Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). “In 1991 we made history, winning with rotary technology. Now we’re looking to return to the winner’s circle with what we believe will be the most advanced and cleanest production-based powerplant the sport has ever seen. We’ll do it in current Mazda style, with engines being available for sale to European and U.S. customers competing in the LMP2 class for both the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).”
The engines are being developed jointly by Mazda Motor Corporation, Mazda North American Operations and SpeedSource Race Engineering. Dyno testing has already begun and on-track testing begins in late 2012.
The engines will be stock-block Mazda SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder, dual-stage turbocharged powerplants. According to John Doonan, MNAO’s Director of Mazda Motorsports, “will deliver outstanding performance and fuel economy coupled with the kind of quality, durability and reliability needed to produce great street cars and win endurance races.”
Mr. Masahiro Moro, Executive Officer in charge of global sales and marketing of Mazda Motor Corporation, made the following comment: “Mazda has fostered the culture of ‘never stop challenging.’ And it was this spirit that drove us through 18 consecutive years of racing at Le Mans, until we finally triumphed in 1991. In fact, it is this same spirit that laid the foundation for the portfolio of SKYACTIV Technologies. This was realized thanks to a number of technological breakthroughs. I am pleased that we will be supporting our private customers who are taking up the Le Mans challenge by supplying race engines as a customer-program based on our SKYACTIV-D CLEAN DIESEL.”
DEMPSEY RACING PLANNING TO BE FIRST SKYACTIV-D CUSTOMER
Planning and preparations continue for Dempsey Racing to become the first LMP2 customer for the Mazda SKYACTIV-D racing powerplant. Dempsey Racing is co-owned by racer/actor Patrick Dempsey.
Dempsey Racing has been racing Mazda RX-8s in the GRAND-AM GT class since 2007 with their highlight being a podium finish at the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team has steadily improved their on-track performance since their arrival in the series, and was a key contributor to Mazda winning the 2010 GRAND-AM GT Manufacturers Championship. With support from several partners such as VISITFLORIDA.com, Dempsey Racing expanded their operation this year to include a team running in the American Le Mans Series, and is competing in both the Prototype Challenge (LMPC) and Prototype 2 (LMP2) classes as they prepare for their Le Mans effort. In fact both team owner Dempsey and co-driver Joe Foster are currently testing their LMP2 car in Virginia as the rest of the sports car world focuses on the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.
Patrick Dempsey and his business partner/co-driver Joe Foster have both competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as drivers in the GT category, and are eager to return in 2013, this time in the LMP2 class and with Mazda SKYACTIV-D clean diesel-power.
Patrick Dempsey comments “Our long-term partnership with Mazda has been fantastic, and we look forward to mutual success as we prepare for 2013. We are focused on that preparation which is why we are currently testing our LMP2 car here in the US in preparation for the next ALMS event. Our team and partners are excited to be associated with SKYACTIV-D technology and the cutting-edge green technology it represents.”
About Mazda & MAZDASPEED
Mazda is the number-one brand for road-racers across North America. Thousands of Mazda powered grassroots racers compete in various classes with the SCCA and NASA highlighted by Spec Miata, the world’s largest spec class with over 2,500 cars built. In 2006 Mazda established the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder to assist racers in moving up through the ranks. In 2010 this was expanded to include the Mazda Road to Indy. Key to Mazda’s success is strategic partnerships with the Skip Barber Racing School and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports is managed by Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). MNAO is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through nearly 700 dealers. Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
Yesterday afternoon Mazda hosted a gaggle of media for their sixth annual motorsports pre-season lunch in which they let the world know how their racing division Mazdaspeed is doing and what they have in store for the year. This year the location chosen for the event was the Crevier Classic Cars collection and club house in Costa Mesa, CA which is host to rows and rows of valuable rare classic cars as well as a few high-dollar modern exotics (more on that in a later post). The meeting was a few hours long so I will just hit all the major news points covered during the conference.
As the meeting got underway the first order of business was introducing the 2012 class of Mazdaspeed Motorsports development ladder graduates. If you are not aware of it, Mazda has created one of the most well defined and most utilized path from armature racing to professional motorsports. Every year they help tons of drivers make it up the ranks from Go-Karting all the way up to the Indy Car Series through the “Mazda Road To Indy” program. 2012 is the year of the “Mazda Seven” as Scott Anderson (Skip Barber Champion), Michael Cooper (MX-5 Cup Champion), Tristan DeGrand (Skip Barber Shootout Champion), Danilo Estrella (Skip Barber Shootout Champion), Elliott Skeer (Club Racer Shootout Champion), Petri Suvanto (USF2000 Champion), and Tristan Vautier (Star Mazda Champion) were introduced as the latest drivers to progress up the Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder and continue on the Road to Indy program. After this years class was introduced it was announced that 17 year old Elliott Skeer will be joining the CJ Wilson racing team for a full season of MX-5 cup this year.
Mazda racing comes back to television
We also got late breaking news that Mazda has just signed a deal with Discovery to bring television broadcast of their MX-5 cup series, Star Mazda Series, and USF2000 to Discovery’s “Velocity” channel as part of the “Mazda Motorsports Hour”. The show is set to debut in April and the first season will consist of 24 one-hour episodes with Rick Benjamin, Randy Pobst, and James “Hinchtown” Hinchcliffe providing commentary.
B-Spec racing updates
Mazda announced that their B-Spec racing kit is now available and announced an MSRP of $2575 which makes their kit the least expensive offered so far. It was also announced that as of now there are four racing series adopting the B-Spec class for 2012: Pirelli World Challenge (3 weekends x 3 races), GRAND-AM (6 races), Canadian Touring Car Championship (full season), and SCCA Club racing. It was also hinted that winners of B-spec races will be eligible for Mazdaspeed shootout events for a shot at a spot on the Mazdaspeed development ladder.
There you have it! It looks like 2012 will be a big year for Mazdaspeed and for Mazda fans as well. I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out for the new ladder drivers, tuning in to the Mazda motorsports hour, and more developments on B-spec.
Even though SEMA is mostly about the aftermarket, over the recent years OEMs have come to the party as well. While Ford and GM usually have a huge auto show like presence there are other manufactuers that keep it short and sweet. Mazda for example sent only their Mazdaspeed performance arm out to the show. Their booth was small but they had a few really great gems. Easily the favorite car of the booth was the “Turbo2″. No, we are not talking about a second gen RX-7. The Turbo2 is Mazda making a lot of people very happy by shoehorning a Mazdaspeed3 turbo engine into the tiny titan known as the Mazda2. While Mazda maintains that the Turbo2 is simply a concept build and there are “no current plants for production” they did reach out to Mazda fans via twitter asking if a turbo’d Mazda2 would be something of interest to them. We are going to guess that the answer they got was a resounding “YES!” Although we are not sure if that would be enough for Mazda to consider a production Turbo2, but we can still hope!
Also on hand in the Mazdaspeed booth was the MX-5 Spyder concept. The MX-5 Spyder is a re-imagining of the current MX-5 but with the class turned way up by ditching the hard top for a chic single pannel sweeping soft top which changes the lines of the car completely but for the better. To keep with Mazda’s commitment to “green” performance the MX-5 Spyder’s MZR engine runs on isobutanol which has an even less significant impact on the environment than ethanol.
Rounding out the booth were a few goodies from last year like the Super20 and the 3DCarbon Mazda2 as well as a few race cars like their ALMS racer and a vintage RX-7. You can see it all below in our Flickr slideshow.
For the last 5 years Mazda has invited journalists to have lunch and discuss Mazda’s standing in the world of motorsports through their Mazdaspeed brand and activities. Usually they incorporate a fun event into the luncheon like electric kart racing at K1 or having a special screening of movies like “Driven To Race“. This year Mazda went all out and roped off a huge area at Hidden Valley park and set up not one but two autocross courses complete with Skip Barber Racing school MX-5 Miata’s, Mazda3′s, and even a full race-spec Mazda2 to thrash!
Also, for the first time since Mazda started the luncheon, drifting was represented at the event with the BMI Racing 4 rotor RX-8, the Bergenholtz Racing/Full Tilt Poker RX-8, and the Kyle Mohan Racing/Nexen Tire RX-8 all on display. Although, none of the RX-8′s seemed like they were quite ready to rock yet it was nice to see the RX-8′s making an appearance.
Once the first session of autocrossing was over we sat down under the canopy of the Star Mazda racing rig and had a chat with Senior VP of Product Development Robert Davis on how Mazda is holding up in the uncertain economy and how their progress is still tied to motorsports. For the most part things seemed to be the status quo for Mazda which is a very good thing in their case. They haven’t lost market share, the Miata has become the #1 selling roadster in history, they’re still the #1 road raced brand in America, and to date over $75 million worth of Mazdaspeed parts have been sold since 1990. It’s also worthy to note that this year marks the 20 year anniversary of Mazda’s overall 1991 win at LeMans with the 787 4-rotor race car. After all this time Mazda is still the only Japanese company to win the event outright! It was hinted that some special events to celebrate the occasion were in the works but no specifics were revealed. I’ll try to keep you posted on that!
It was also pointed out that despite the shaky economy Mazda’s motorsports involvement is still going strong. The Playboy MX-5 Cup is still fiscally one of the most rewarding racing series around with a $250k purse up for grabs (which is more than what you’d get for winning the Ferrari Challenge Series!). Star Mazda has reached its 21st year of competition which makes it the longest running road-racing series in America and the Mazdaspeed motorsports ladder is going on its 26th year. That last bit of info led to the news that despite the demise of the Atlantic series throwing things off Mazda maintains their open wheel ladder by being the official partner for the “Road To Indy“. Which is the path from amateur racing all the way up to Indy Car Series competition.
The next big announcement was Mazdasinvolvement in the new “B-Spec” racing class (sanctioned by NASA) with the Mazda2. In fact the “race spec” Mazda2 at the autocross course that I mentioned earlier was the very same Mazda2 that ran the B-Spec class at Thunderhill. Right now they’re current competitionin “B-Spec” class racing is Honda withthe Honda Fit but Mr. Davis said that he would welcome more competition from other manufacturers like GM (likely with the Chevy Aveo).
When the floor was opened up to questions I asked if B-Spec class racing would be folded into the Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder. The answer I got from Mr. Davis as well as Alternative Marketing Manager Jim Jordan was that while the B-Spec class wont be an “official” part of the ladder if you win a B-Spec class race in a Mazda2 you will be eligible to compete in the annual Mazdaspeed shoot out which can lead to entrance into one of the Mazdaspeed ladder series. So in a way B-Spec class racing is something of a foot-stool that can help you get to the ladder. Looks like I’m going to need to get myself a Mazda2!
Based on what I heard at this year’s lunch, Mazda is going to continue to make a respectable dent in motorsports. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! Thanks to Mazda for the invite and for letting me get behind the wheel of a Skip Barber MX-5!