– Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Mazda – A Quick Zoom Zoom Back In Time
© Gary Horrocks
is a car company unlike any other. “Zoom-Zoom” is a
trademark that runs deep in the corporate structure there. What
better way to show that commitment than at its home track, Mazda
Raceway Laguna Seca.
While Mazda will admit that the last two years in
the P2 division of the ALMS have been a disappointment, we sportscar
fans sometimes are guilty of tunnel vision, concentrating only on
the prototype program. For Mazda, there is much more to its racing
programs than that.
Star Mazda has been a proven and cost effective
training ground for up and coming drivers for many years, while
its efforts in the Speed Touring series have proven to be quite
competitive in the last few years, moving from also rans to class
Starting this season, the new look Formula Atlantic
series is powered by Mazda and it also have strong presence in Grand
Am. But many forget about yesterday. When Mazda was truly a giant
Among the cars on display at Mazda Raceway Laguna
Seca for the ALMS weekend were some of the more significant entries
for the make that raced in the States.
was the RX-2, a project car from Car and Driver magazine, back when
the magazine had some spirit. This car raced in the IMSA RS class
in 1973, and gave Mazda its first victory in IMSA competition.
There was the
RX-3, which Jim Downing drove to the RS championship in 1981.
between, but of a different breed, was the GTU class RX-7 of 1979,
which really set Mazda on the map in sportscar racing. I remember
working at PIR while in college, and being asked to lock up the
Bridgestone tires of the fastest qualifying RX-7, the thought being
that they were super soft and that is where the speed came from.
Well, from the results, it wasn’t the tires…
Also on display
was the 1991 GTO class winning RX-7 and the radical looking RX-792P
GTP from 1992. While not successful, as far as results, this was
one of the cars that captured the imagination at the end of a glorious
Who would have
thought that out of humble beginnings such as the RX-2 and RX-3
would spring forth the overall winner of Le Mans in 1991? This is
a 1994 image from Laguna Seca's Historics event: this car was at
Okayama last weekend. Below is another 1994 shot, this one of the
as if Mazda took the lessons learned by Porsche in its many years
as a giant killer and based the program upon that script. Unfortunately,
in the dark years of sportscar racing the 90s, Mazda too forgot
the plot, almost disappearing from the racing scene.
But it hasn’t always been good for Mazda.
Besides disappearing from racing, Mazda almost disappeared from
the scene all together. Sales went down as Mazda went down the same
road as many others, concentrating on cars that had no character.
Thankfully, the company learned the lesson and righted the ship,
again embracing racing.
Now, there is hope that Mazda is ready to take the
next step in prototype racing. It was hoped that an announcement
was to be made at the track, addressing the future, but it now appears
that the announcement will possibly occur at the SEMA show. Knowing
it will be taking on Porsche, Acura and possibly others in the next
few years, Mazda knows that it must focus and put forth better efforts
in order to compete with its rivals in the market place.
But it isn’t just on the track that Mazda
is making news. It could be argued that across the entire product
line, Mazda quite possibly could have more interesting and enthusiast-geared
vehicles than any other line in the world. Starting with the RX-8,
the flag ship of the line, right on down to the Mazda 3, every car
is equipped with a dose of Zoom-Zoom.
Even the car
I had for the weekend, a 2007 Mazda 5 Touring, is injected with
the soul of a sportscar. Looking at the specs, what is effectively
a 6 passenger vehicle (mini-van - which the specs carefully avoid
saying) with a 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic
transmission is not something to stir the soul. But this wasn’t
bad. And that is not meant to be a negative. The power from the
153 hp motor was more than adequate for very comfortable cruising.
While spirited driving brought forth some body roll, it was not
like many rivals of this type.
Upon entering the car, I almost chuckled at the
thought of utilizing the option of manually shifting the gears in
this car, but it actually suited the character of it quite well.
A good stereo (with Sirius satellite radio) and a sun roof completed
the package for a very comfortable and stylish vehicle. Well comfortable
for most anyway. I just could never arrive at a truly comfortable
seating position, no matter what I tried. I just couldn’t
get adequate leg support. But then again, I have to admit that my
dimensions are a bit more than above the norm.
Mazda, as a company, should be congratulated on
its support of racing and the wisdom of using it to revitalize not
just a product line, but an entire company. Ford, are you watching
one of your investments?