Mazda Races to the End of an Era

30 Sep

Saturday’s Rolex Sports Car Series season finale at Lime Rock Park will mark the end of an era for one of the most successful cars in GRAND-AM history.

With 18 class victories, including two GT titles at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and a sweep of the 2010 drivers, teams and manufacturers’ championships, Mazda’s RX-8 will take a final bow this weekend after a storied five-year run.

“There is not a Mazda employee, racer, or race fan who does not hear the rotary exhaust note as our special theme song,” said John Doonan, Mazda Motorsports director.

“With two Rolex 24 Hour GT wins, and a championship in 2010, we are hoping to close out the GRAND-AM GT chapter with a win at Lime Rock. I know that everyone at SpeedSource, Team Sahlen’s, Dempsey Racing and Yellow Dragon would like to be the one to deliver that win.”

Five rotary-powered beasts are expected to take the green flag on Saturday, including the flagship No. 70 SpeedSource entry of Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay, whose Florida-based organization built and developed the RX-8 into a championship-winning car.

This weekend, the SpeedSource entry will carry a commemorative hood, listing each of the victories and the drivers who achieved them.

The RX-8’s most recent trip to victory lane came just three weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, when Dane Cameron and Wayne Nonnamaker gave Team Sahlen’s its first-ever GT class win in the team’s second-to-last appearance in the highly competitive category.

While it may be the end of the road for the RX-8, which concluded production in 2011, the rotary will live on in the Star Mazda Championship next year.

In the sports car ranks, Mazda will focus efforts on its new SKYACTIV-D engine platform, which will be seen in GRAND-AM’s new GX category in 2013, as well as LMP2 worldwide.

“Lime Rock will be the end of a chapter – but not the book, for the Mazda rotary,” Doonan added. “While rotary production is on hiatus in Hiroshima, the program is far from dead. Work continues on the next-generation rotary engine, and we look forward to sharing information with you about it, when we can.

“Right now, though, our 2013 GRAND-AM and ALMS programs will be focused on the new SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel race engine, another industry-first for Mazda.”

Dempsey Racing was announced earlier this year as the first intended LMP2 customer of the SpeedSource-developed 2.2-liter diesel turbo, while the identity of the GRAND-AM GX-class entry, which will also be SKYACTIV-D-powered, is expected to be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

John Dagys is SPEED.com’s Sportscar Racing Reporter, focusing on all major domestic and international championships. You can follow him on Twitter @johndagys or email him at askdagys@gmail.com

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