Very few concept cars have garnered quite as much attention as the Mazda Furai. On the outside, it blended the craziness of a racing car with quint-essential Japanese elegance, akin to that of waves that interlink rather than abruptly crash together.
The world prepared themselves for the possibility of a production version and a racing version – both of which were highly likely. But within a year of the concept's initial unveiling at the end of 2007, the Furai seemed to do something of a Lord Lucan, and vanish from existence. Well, there's a very good reason for that. But before we go into those details, let's indulge in the car a little more...
Following in the footsteps of a long line of legendary Mazdas, the Furai utilised the ferocious potential of a rotary engine. And I really do mean "ferocious". The 3-Rotor W**kel engine in the Furai developed 460bhp. That might not sound like all that much if you're a lunatic – but that power was propelling virtually no weight. The carbon fibre construction meant the curb-weight was only 1488lbs (675kg), resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 681bhp-per-tonne – better than a Bugatti Veyron SuperSports. And if that still doesn't sound hairy enough for you, then there's the wail that came from the engine itself.
The sound that shot out of the back of the Furai was something you would typically associate with Armageddon - in the most exciting and spine-tingling way possible. Apparently, the name "Furai" means "sound of the wind". Which really does make me wonder: what kind of a curry do you need to eat for wind to sound like this...
The chassis came from an LMP2 prototype racer, but arguably, that wasn't the car's most direct and poignant link to Le Mans. The Furai wore the number 55 after the Mazda 787B that won the 24 hour race in 1991, giving Mazda their one and only victory.
Just like Paul Gascoigne, the Furai ran solely on boozy E100 Ethanol. But unlike Gazza, the Furai was fully functional. It was no Paris Hilton concept: designed to look good and do nothing; it worked like any production car. It appeared at numerous car events, all of which resulted in it gaining much media attention. The only media outlet that actually got to drive the car however was Top Gear. After they tested it, the car seemed to just vanish from the airwaves. And there's a very good reason for that.
During Top Gear's day with the car, they noticed the engine had stopped sounding like an almighty vindaloo exiting the body in gas form, and started to sound more like the subsequent splat that happens in a person's jeans if they try to force a vindaloo's gas out with too much vim. And quite ironically, the reason behind that was because the car had suddenly decided it wanted to be as hot as the aforementioned vindaloo.
It was on fire – but Top Gear being a responsible organisation that prepare for every eventuality (apart from their main presenter suddenly craving a steak) the fire brigade were present. Unfortunately however, due to the location of the car on the circuit when it caught fire, the crew weren't aware that there was a problem until several minutes after the flames had first spawned.
By the time Fireman Sam reached the scene, the only Furai ever made was completely encompassed in a blanket of flames. After the 8 minutes it took to extinguish, all that remained was a mangled and charred wreck. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happened to the Mazda Furai.
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Written by: Angelo Uccello
Tribe: Speed Machines
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