Earlier this year, I headed along to Fuji Speedway to check out the annual Motor Fan Fest. While I was interested in seeing what this event was all about, I had been tipped off that a very special car thought lost for 35 years would be attending. Knowing that, I just had to get down to Fuji and check it out with my very own eyes.
What I found parked up in the paddock totally blew my mind.
This relic in question was one of Mazda’s 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans works ‘254i’ race cars.
Masahito Ito, the new owner and president of Power Craft and Pro Composites, discovered the long-lost 254i in Okayama through his vast industry connections. Initially, the idea was to evolve the RX-7-based creation into a real monster – just for Ito-san to have some fun in – but once he unearthed its history as a Mazda works Le Mans race car that all changed.
Masahito was excited to give me a tour around the Mazda, and that began with showing me documentation and pictures of what seemed to be three similar-looking cars, all with different liveries.
In 1982, Mazda entered a pair of 254i race cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with average results. After the race, both cars were shipped back to Japan where they competed in a number of JPSC series races. One was subsequently crashed at Fuji Speedway to the point of destruction, while the other car – which was originally finished in a black and gold JUN livery, and then changed to pink and then to white for its Japanese domestic racing career – disappeared after be raced in the 1984 Fuji 1000.
Smiling, Ito-san pulled me away from the images on the windscreen, and pointed to a section of the door frame. The remnants of the pink, and black and gold paint can still be found on this racer – signifying that this is that 254i.
With its history confirmed, the RX-7 is now being fully restored. Masahito is handling the bodywork, and his trusted friends at RE Amemiya are looking after the 13B rotary engine work.
Masahito wants to restore the Mazda as accurately as possible to its Le Mans configuration, which is so cool.
This is one car I’ll be revisiting again, but in the meantime check out the video below for a look at both 254i racers competing at Le Mans in 1982.