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  Mazda 787      

  Article Image gallery (40) 787 - 002 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:1990
Numbers built:2
Designed by:Nigel Stroud for Mazdaspeed
Predecessor:Mazda 767B
Successor:Mazda 787B
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 27, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLike many of its Japanese rivals, Mazda had set its sights on endurance racing in general and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in specific during the 1980s. What set Mazda's efforts apart was the use of the manufacturer's relatively small rotary engine instead of the turbocharged or large displacement engines used by the likes of Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota. As a result the Mazdas were usually only able to challenge for class wins. This changed with the introduction of the four-rotor evolution of the engine in 1988.

Known as the 13J-M, this was by no means a new engine as it effectively was the previously used triple rotor with a fourth added. Although it produced 50 bhp more, it did not yield the desired results. So for 1990, a brand new four-rotor was created in record time. Constructed from lightweight alloys, the R26B boasted three plugs per cylinder, new two-piece carbon apex seals and variable length intake trumpets. These allowed for a higher torque figures across the rev-range. Although the 703 bhp did not quite match the 100 bhp increase promised by Mazda technical director Yasuo Tatsutomi, it was a 70 bhp than the similarly sized 13J-M.

While the new engine was developed in Japan, Mazda's trusted chassis designer Nigel Stroud created a brand new chassis to house the lighter and shorter R26B. This was Mazda's first complete composite chassis, constructed from carbon-fibre composites with an aluminium honeycomb core. Aft of the cockpit a substantial tubular steel subframe was fitted to house the engine and support the rear suspension. As before, the rotary engine was mated to a Porsche-sourced five-speed gearbox. This tried and trusted unit was perhaps heavier than it could have been but had shown excellent reliability for many years.

Stroud spent many hours in the MIRA wind-tunnel to optimise the new Mazda's all-important aerodynamics. Like all Group C cars of the day, the design relied heavily on the ground-effect principle. This used the bottom of the car, which was shaped like a wing to generate downforce. Thanks to the diminutive dimensions of the engine, the necessary 'ground-effect tunnels' that ran on either side of the R26B could be relatively large. Stroud used the wind-tunnel time to improve the Mazda's top speed, which resulted in a slightly narrower track compared to its predecessors.

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  Article Image gallery (40) 787 - 002 Specifications