The best-selling rotary engine car in the world
When it comes to sports cars with a rotary engine, the first car that comes to mind can only be the Mazda RX-7. Launched in Japan in 1978, and a year later in Europe, it immediately attracted the attention of sports car enthusiasts thanks to the distinctive element of the rotating pistons that the Hiroshima company continued to develop. This does not move with alternating rectilinear motion but rotates around an axis and has the advantage of compactness and lightness but has its weak point in terms of consumption and reliability. It is also known as the Wankel engine, from the name of its inventor Felix who in 1957 had made it for the NSU and mounted on the 1963 Spider and the Ro80 sedan on sale until 1977, as beautiful as it is delicate.
Mazda had offered this type of engine on most of its models until the 1973-74 oil crisis, and after that decided to abandon them for most of its sedans and wagons. The then head of Research and Development, Kenichi Yamamoto, objected that it was crucial for the company as an element of distinction and perfect for a sports car.
The first generation of the RX-7 with FB platform, an elegant and slender coupe with a wedge-shaped front and a wraparound rear window on the tailgate, was made specifically for this engine. It developed 100 or 135 HP, depending on the target markets, which combined with a weight of just over one tonne, ensured performance and handling.
It made the most of the small size of the system which was positioned under the front hood, behind the axle and transmitted power to the rear wheels with perfect weight distribution. The 1,146 cc double-rotor 12A engine was later joined by the 160 HP turbo version for Japan, while North America obtained a slightly larger 13B engine equipped with direct fuel injection. It would become the best selling rotary engine car in history,
The second generation, the FC was presented in 1985 and develops the supercharging at best which proved particularly suitable for rotary engines thanks to the characteristics of their exhaust flow and effective in increasing torque at medium revs. The 1.3-liter 13B engine was standard for all markets and, although the RX-7 was initially offered in Europe with a 150 HP aspirated, the 180 HP double turbo versions would follow, then it rose to 200 HP . The most powerful model covered 0-100 km / h in 6 seconds and had a top speed of 240 km / h.
The third and last generation, the FD arrives in 1992, and marks the transition between the Gran Turismo. Equipped with a new twin sequential turbocharger it brings the power to 239 HP of the last 13B engine on the European version, with performances in the order of 0-100 km / h in 5.3 seconds and a maximum speed (self-limited) of 250 km / h, for 1,300 kg of weight. In 1996, however, the marketing of the RX-7 stopped in most of Europe due to the emission standards, but Mazda continues to produce the model for the right-hand drive markets, increasing the power up to 280 HP on subsequent reserved models to Japan. A total of 811,634 RX-7s were produced between 1978 and 2002.
The replacement is the 2003 RX-8, with the original half-door on the passenger side but in Hiroshima they continue to study the rotary engines, such as the hydrogen-powered ones of the RX-8 Hydrogen RE, and those of the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, a MPV with an electric motor and a dual-fuel rotary engine. He subsequently developed the Mazda2 EV prototype with a small single rotor motor used as a range extender to extend its autonomy. Mazda engineers are studying a similar system for the Mazda MX-30, the new electric crossover SUV that will arrive in dealerships this year.
The sporting activity of the Mazda RX-7 was also very intense, with the victory in the 1,600-2,300 cm3 class of the British Saloon Car Championship in 1980 and 1981 and showing reliability by completing, again in 1981, the 24 Hours of Spa In the United States, however, the RX-7 won over 100 IMSA races, dominating the GTU class (up to 2,500 cc) including the 12 consecutive years of class success (from 1982 to 1993) in the 24 Hours of Daytona. The RX-7 also proved its worth in the Australian Endurance Championship, won from 1982 to 1984, and in the Bathurst 12 Hours of the same country (champion 1992-95).
The most important success in competitions for the rotary engine, however, came in 1991 with the victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the 787B four-rotor 710 HP. Mazda is the first Japanese company to win the race which alone is worth more than a world title and is so far the only winning car without a piston engine. She manages the business by making the most of a regulation that did not penalize her in consumption, factor c.