For those fortunate to visit the Skope Classic event in Christchurch over the weekend, they were privy to a number of demonstration runs by a 1984 March 84g #7 chassis Mazdaspeed Factory Team Prototype. So why is such a fabulous car residing in New Zealand and what is so special about it?
For any 24 Hours of Le Mans fans, the 1991 race holds special significance. The race was won by Volker Weidler, Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot in a Mazda 787B, powered with a rotary model 26B Wankel engine. It was the first race victory by a Japanese manufacturer and it was the first ever non-piston engine car to take victory, and against some formidable opposition. Then there is the sound of the rotary, just incredible and so, so, different.
The Mazda at the Skope meeting this week is said to have been the prototype that led to its manufacturer assault on Le Mans and on to their victory in 1991.
The #7 chassis, only participated in one race, the 1984 Fuji 1000 where it retired after 153 laps with turbo failure.
It is said to have been gifted to driver Yoshimi Katayama, for his many years of service to Mazda racing, and sat for many more years outside his Kobe Mazda dealership. Fortunately the car was moved just a couple of weeks before the 1995 Kobe earthquake and remained undamaged while the rest of Katayama’s card yard, and spare Mazda 84g parts, were literally squashed!
Key for its sale into Kiwi Warwick Mortimer’s hands was his long-term business relationship with Katayama. Having many years ago expressed his interest in owning the car, Mortimer had to be patient until he got the phone call several years ago.
With Katayama in ill health, Mortimer was to become the new custodian of this unique piece of Japanese history. Hence, it now resides in New Zealand having been fully restored and already displayed at the Goodwood festival.