Back in 1991, when the McLaren F1 supercar had just been born and the Persian Gulf War was still raging, Mazda was working on a new endurance racer, one with a four-rotor Wankel rotary engine. The race car was the Mazda 787B and it would eventually go on to take overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race that same year.

Yes, you read that correctly. The 787B featured a four-rotor Wankel rotary engine, double that of the current mill found in the Mazda RX-8 sports car.  Now, the incredible four-rotor engine noise will be heard again around the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 11, before the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans race kicks off.

With its 1991 win at the famous circuit, Mazda became the first and only Japanese automaker to achieve the feat. It was also the first rotary-engined car to do so as well.

Jointly developed by Mazda and Mazdaspeed, the organization that managed Mazda's racing program, the 787B has a chassis designed to meet Group C racing car technical regulations and is powered by a four-rotor rotary engine that produces 700 horsepower.

Due to a change in the race regulations, 1991 was to become the last year that a rotary-engine car could participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the last chance, after 17 years of effort, Mazda finally realized its long-held dream to take the overall victory.

Since 1991, the winning Mazda 787B has mostly been on display at the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. In preparation for the demonstration at Le Mans, Mazda has carefully restored the car back to driving condition for the first time since its post-race overhaul in 1991.


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