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News to delight fans of the Mazda brand around the world. The Japanese carmaker is, reportedly, mulling over the notion of returning to Le Mans in the future with a rotary-powered race machine. Speaking to Top Gear UK, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, head engineer for the Mazda MX-5 and mastermind of the legendary 787B racer, said that “the expectation for us [Mazda] to return to Le Mans is high.”

“I am a rotary racing engineer. That is my background,” he clarified. “I hope – as with many other Mazda fans – that we go back to Le Mans.” While the marque itself has yet to issue an official statement confirming its Le Mans comeback, it isn’t exactly ruling out the idea – one only has to look to the recently-concluded 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed for more evidence.

At said event, Mazda was out in full force as it paraded its 787B and 767B race machines amongst others – the latter, unfortunately, was involved in a crash. Setting aside the accident, it is a no-brainer that the higher-ups within Mazda still possess the penchant for motorsports. Opening the history books will also reveal how significant the 24 Hours of Le Mans race is to Mazda.

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In 1991, its 787B race car, piloted by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot, became the first race car without pistons, as well as the first Japanese car, to win the fabled endurance race – it is still, to this day, the only Japanese car to have won at Le Mans. Following that, a ban was imposed on rotary engines but said ban has since been lifted.

The Mazda 787B’s body featured a Kevlar and carbon-fibre composite construction and as a result, weighed around 850 kg. Performance was provided by a quad-rotor 26B Wankel engine that produced a total of 700 hp at 9,000 rpm and 840 Nm of torque, channelled to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

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