June 2011 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Mazda 787B's historic triumph in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. By winning Le Mans 1991, the Mazda race car became the first and, to date, the only Japanese auto manufacturer to win the world's most demanding endurance motor race. The legendary Mazda 787B, was powered by a 700 BHP, four-rotor rotary engine. Changes in race regulations meant that 1991 was the last year that rotary engine cars were permitted to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making the Mazda triumph all the more impressive.
To celebrate Mazda's unique achievement at Le Mans, race organiser Automobile Club de L'Ouest (ACO) invited members of the victorious Le Mans 1991 team to demonstrate and celebrate the winning Mazda 787B on the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe before and after this year's 24-hour race. Patrick Dempsey, the US actor and Mazda RX-8 racer, made a special guest appearance, while English racer and winning co-driver Johnny Herbert finally got on to the podium this year, having missed the post-race celebrations in 1991 due to dehydration.
Seita Kanai, Director and Executive Vice President, Mazda Motor Corporation also attended the two day celebration, and summed up the scale of Mazda's momentous achievement like this: "In 1991, Mazda was very much an underdog team competing against Mercedes and Jaguar. This win was the racing embodiment of our expression - the will to never give up. We are pleased to be able to share this car once again with our many fans and employees around the world."
Watch Patrick Dempsey, Johnny Herbert and the winning Mazda 787B in action