The Mazda 787B

The 787B was a development of the 787, a design raced by Mazda in 1989 and 1990. It is considered an icon of late 20th century motorsport, and the orange and green ‘Argyll’ livery is as recognisable as such classics as the JPS gold and black Lotus, Gulf Oils blue and orange or the white and stripes Martini.

It’s stand out feature for most enthusiasts is the noise produced by the R26B Quad rotor Wankel engine. Rather than attempt to explain how the rotary engine works please sit back and enjoy this short video. :O) (To be frank, it’s a mystery to me how it works…)

Measured conventionally the R26B had only a 2.6 Litre capacity, not much bigger than a contemporary family car. However, if you paid attention to Herr Schwenke up there you’ll already know that each rotor was intaking, compressing, combusting and exhausting its charge simultaneously in one revolution. The Wankel configuration is a lot more compact, lightweight and smooth than a reciprocating engine, and despite being limited to 8500 RPM during the race, still produces sounds like this:


Le Mans Legend has it that the car could be heard for it’s entire 8 mile lap from the campsites. I saw it demonstrated at Le Mans in 2011 and despite restraint on Johnny Herbert’s part you can see how that might not be too far from the truth. That demo lap is in the clip below. (At the end you will see Johnny finally mount the podium to celebrate the ’91 victory, having been admitted to the medical centre with dehydration at the end of the race and missing the ceremony.)

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