2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Racing Engine
July 16, 2009
Is there anyone who doesn't dream of putting a racing engine under the hood?
The pumped-up exotic sports cars you see on the street are just the latest expression of an impulse that you can trace clear back to 1916, when Louis Chevrolet formed Frontenac with his brothers to build overhead valve conversions for Henry Ford's inline-4. Since then it's been a point of pride to say that your car had a competition-bred thoroughbred engine under the hood.
Who would have guessed that our 2009 Mazda 6 would be among them?
Yes, the Mazda 6 is just like the Bugatti Type 35, Ferrari 250GT SWB and even the Porsche 911 GT3, because it's got a competition-proven engine. Mazda's 16-valve, DOHC, 2.5-liter MZR inline-4 might seem modest with its output of 170 hp, yet it's the basis of the turbocharged 500-hp engine that powers the Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 that competes in the LMP 2 class of the American Le Mans Series.
As a matter of fact, the Mazda MZR powers a full range of Mazda cars in competition, including the MX-5 Cup, Star Mazda, Formula Atlantic and even drag racing. There was a time when production-based engines were fairly common in racing applications, but as engine manufacturers have come to emphasize low-friction, lightweight designs in order to improve fuel economy and air emissions, this has become a rare feat. It's particularly rare among four-cylinder engines, where the designs are stressed near their limits even in a production application. These days, the idea of building in the capacity for added horsepower seems like a waste of money and resources to corporate accountants.
The MZR is a notable exception. Engineered by Mazda for worldwide use to both Mazda and Ford cars, this inline-4 has been massaged by some of the finest specialists in race engineering. Cosworth removes the engine's balance shafts and adds its own modified cylinder heads and crankcase to build the normally aspirated, 300-hp engine for Formula Atlantic. The turbocharged MZR-R has been developed by AER, which formerly specialized in Nissan engines.
Truth to tell, only the MZR-R's engine block will remind you of anything found under the hood of our Mazda 6, as a single Garrett turbocharger, a Cosworth-developed valvetrain with barrel-type throttles, and electronics from Life Racing help develop 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque from the 100-octane E10 fuel provided by BP. Even so, I'm kind of charmed by the fact that a little bit of our Mazda 6 not only competes in the American Le Mans Series but also powered a handful of cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 15,460 miles