2012 Mazda MAZDA3: What Does Racing Prove?
May 18, 2012
So you're driving around in this little Mazda 3 wagonette and it's easy to wonder what it has to do with the whole racing persona that Mazda has created for itself. After all, what other car company has its name on a race track?
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Is this some sort of advertising scam? What does it have to do with a thrifty sort of runabout with a four-cylinder engine? You know, not exactly Formula 1, eh?
And yet once you step into the arena at Laguna Seca for the American Le Mans Series, you start to get the idea. It seems like every racing car in the place has a Mazda MZR four-cylinder engine at the business end.
In street trim, the 200-hp MZR powers the Miatas in the Mazda MX-5 Playboy Cup . A 230-hp MZR powers the DP02 cars in Cooper Tires Prototypes Lites 1. A 500-hp turbocharged MZR-R powers Dyson Racing's Lola B12/66 in the LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series.
Meanwhile, you can go to other race tracks on this same day and you'll find Mazdas of almost every persuasion in competition. As Mazda keeps telling us, it has a whole ladder going that can take you from go-karts to the 24 Hours of Le Mans .
It's easy to think of this as simply advertising, like money thrown into the street. After all, bright guys have been saying for decades that there's no business case for motorsports.
Of course, Henry Ford would disagree, because he used speed and performance to prove the performance of the 80-hp "999," which finally made his name in the car business after several false starts. Since then, any car company with a shortage of advertising dollars and a lot to prove has chosen motorsports to do it, notably Ferrari and Porsche.
Mazda has been doing the same since it first put its name above the title at Laguna Seca in 2001 and has just renewed its contract until 2016. And unlike most title sponsors, it has used its involvement to good effect, establishing its heritage, creating a program that sells $8M in parts to amateur racers every year, and even achieving a substantial presence in the Monterey community.
So when I think about the state of small four-cylinder engines today, which are largely featherweight, highly stressed power plants with cooling and oiling systems barely capable of keeping all the components alive, the Mazda MZR under the Mazda 3's hood seems like a miracle of engineering in comparison.
And when the Dyson Lola B12/66-Mazda goes by , I can practically feel the breeze. For me, racing proves something. When I see my brand on the track, I feel better about what I drive. It might be advertising, but it sure works on me.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com