Mazda will celebrate its racing success past and present at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion
In 1979, Yojiro Terada, Yoshimi Katayama and Takashi Yorino drove an RX-7 to fifth overall and first in GTU in the 24 Hours of Daytona, beginning a long string of successes for the RX-7 in headline IMSA competition, including five straight GTU titles, a GTO championship and 10 straight class victories at Daytona. That Mazda success continues today with the Mazda RT24-P Daytona Prototype international program run by Mazda Team Joest.
But for this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, it’s the past that will be celebrated at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, and especially the 50-year history of the International Motor Sports Association, which Mazda has been a part of for 49 years.
“I fell in love with the Mazda brand in ’79 when the first RX-7s came to Daytona and won,” says John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports. “We went to IMSA races, and it was right at that time in the mid-’80s when the Nissan GTP program got kicked off, Bob Tullius and Group 44 were showcasing Jaguar, and there was the Corvette with Doc Bundy and Sarel Van Der Merwe – you started to see these factory teams. Porsche, of course, was pretty much customer racing, although a couple of those were considered factory teams. Mazda, though, didn’t really have a factory effort until the early ’90s.”
First came the privateers racing RX-2s, RX-3s, and eventually RX-7s. The RX-7 propelled drivers to eight GT championships in the ’80s and ’90s. One of those was the Malibu Grand Prix-sponsored Mazda RX-7 driven by Tommy Kendall, a car Doonan says he remembers watching at Road America and Mid-Ohio. Kendall has been working with good friend and Corvette Racing crew chief Dan Binks to restore the car, which is the most-winning RX-7 in IMSA history. It’s not in concours condition, but it’s in the same condition as when Kendall last raced it, and Kendall will be driving it at the Motorsports Reunion.