Mazda announces 2007 American Le Mans series plans
Faced with increased competition in the American LeMans Series LMP2 category, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and B-K Motorsports today announced they will partner with Advanced Engine Research Ltd (AER) and Lola Cars to develop an all-new Mazda-derived engine and purpose-built chassis for their 2007 championship effort. The goal is to improve on the 2006 result of third place in the American LeMans Series (ALMS) Championship for P2 cars, with an eye on the top step of the podium.
Ongoing Support of the American LeMans Series and IMSA
While Mazda has raced in many series across the country and around the world, most race fans think of endurance road racing and Mazda in the same sentence. “Mazda thrives on innovation, and the American LeMans Series supplies a great challenge to our engineers and teams. Over the past two years we have enjoyed a number of successes in the P2 class and are looking forward to the increased competition in 2007,” said Robert Davis, Senior VP, Product Development and Quality, Mazda North American Operations, and the man responsible for the company’s North American motorsports programs.
All New MZR-R Engine
MAZDASPEED engineers in the U.S. and Japan, in conjunction with U.K. based Advanced Engine Research Ltd (AER), will debut an all-new MZR-R prototype engine at the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring. The new engine, a clean sheet design, is a turbocharged 2.0 liter in-line four cylinder. The performance goals for the engine are 500hp and 400 lb-ft, with the durability to succeed in such grueling races as the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 10-hour Petit Le Mans. The engineering team is working to incorporate the production-based Mazda Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) system into the race motor. The technical collaboration between Mazda and AER has been non-stop in preparation for the season- opener at Sebring.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Manager Steve Sanders stated, “Given the rules package, we needed to make a radical change to be able to match the competition. The current conditions and rules simply do not allow our rotary engine to have any competitive advantage, hence the move to piston power this season.”
Sanders continued, “The Mazda and AER engineers are working closely with Honeywell Turbo Technologies on the development of a new Garrett motorsports turbocharger design for this engine program. The overall LMP2 program is driven by Mazda engineering, as we use motorsports to help develop future advanced technologies with the potential to transfer over to our production vehicles.”
Mazda remains firmly committed to the rotary engine, in the street-going RX-8 four-door sportscar and racing classes like Grand Am GT and the one-make professional Star Mazda formula car series.
While the new engine will be exclusive to B-K Motorsports in 2007, the long-term goal is to add teams in both the American Le Mans Series as well as the Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe in 2008.
All New Chassis from Lola
B-K Motorsports will replace their existing Courage C65 with an-all new Lola B07/40. The team will complete the car in February just prior to Sebring. “The partnership between Mazda, Lola, AER, Honeywell/Garrett, Kumho Tires, and many other suppliers on this project has been excellent,” said Marcus Haselgrove, B-K Motorsports Team Manager. “Jointly developing race and road car technology with the MZR-R is what sportscar racing is about. We hope to be competitive from round one, but the P2 competition will be the toughest in ALMS history.”
2007 Driver line-up to feature Star Mazda Alumni
B-K Motorsports will field an international driver line-up with American Jamie Bach and Englishman Ben Devlin running the entire season. Brazilian Raphael Matos will join the team for Sebring as well as the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta.
Bach will return for his third season with B-K Motorsports. He was the 2005 Co-Rookie of the Year in P2, winning one race. In 2006, Bach scored one podium finish as he helped the team to third place in the team championship. He is a graduate of the Star Mazda series and of the Skip Barber Racing School.
Devlin, from the UK, has extensive experience in chassis development. He has been running in the LMP2 (P675) category since 2001, notching up two race wins in 2002. He made his American racing debut in a Formula Mazda race.
Matos, a past champion in both the Skip Barber Racing Series (2003) and the Star Mazda Series, will be spending the bulk of his 2007 season chasing the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, but will join the B-K team in the two endurance races (Sebring and Petit Le Mans).
The team expects to announce a new primary sponsor prior to the Sebring race, but is pleased that Road & Track will be returning as an associate sponsor. Additional support is coming from ASG, Sparco, and Sirius Satellite Radio.
The 12 race 2007 American LeMans Series will kick-off with the 55 th annual 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17 th, and conclude with the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 20 th.
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you’ll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the fastest growing road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA’s Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America’s racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda’s involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world’s premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.