We visited the Mazda Fan Festa at Fuji Speedway in Japan just over a month ago. The Mazda Fan Festa is a gathering of Mazda fans and owners organized by Mazda Motor Corporation itself. This event is perhaps the holy grail for all Mazda fans in Japan and even worldwide–an event that’s worth the traffic jam of Mazdas to Fuji Speedway. To see a flock of MX-5s, CX-60s, rotary-powered Cosmos, and RX-7s head to the track is a hair-raising moment, so imagine the feeling we felt once we were at the venue to see a racetrack we’d normally only play in video games like GranTurismo. It was like meeting the Avengers for the first time.
Be Careful Meeting Your Heroes
Unlike the Avengers, these cars weren’t fictional. These may be the cars you’ve mostly driven in video games, but everything at this moment is real. Just like the people behind the past and present of Mazda Motor Corporation. At the start of the event is a run of Mazda’s historical racecars, which was culminated by a run of the first Japanese racecar to win the 24 hours of Le Mans–the #55 787B. I’d argue that this is a car that should be on any enthusiast’s bucket list to see or even hear in person because it’s an iconic racecar that’s worth celebrating.
The Mazda 787B hurtled down the main straight of Fuji Speedway with its four-rotor rotary engine singing a high-pitched song that’s instantly recognizable. Stay close enough to it in full throttle and it might probably rupture your eardrums. It’s really that loud. After the demonstration lap, all four generations of the Mazda MX-5, from the NA to the current ND2, joined the formation at the straight of Fuji Speedway where the brand’s top executive alighted.
The 787B was piloted by Yojiro Terada, who has participated in the 24 Hour of Le Mans multiple times while stepping out of the ND2 is Mazda’s current CEO, Masahiro Moro. Moro-san and his team were the welcoming committee for this momentous occasion. The key message for the entire event has been Mazda’s unwavering quest to continue making cars that, at its core, are meant to deliver an emotionally rich driving experience.
That pursuit of carbon neutrality is evident in the ND2 MX-5 he was driving. That’s because it’s an MX-5 that uses a modified version of a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engine that accepts carbon-neutral fuels. These are joined by a Mazda 2 and Mazda 3 that are fed by biodiesel. Together with the aforementioned MX-5 and a duo of Toyota GR 86s and Subaru BRZ, these cars compete in the Super Taikyu endurance race series, and they also acknowledge Toyota’s multi-solution path to climate change.
Looking To The Future By Acknowledging The Past
Apart from these carbon-neutrality racecars, Mazda’s heritage collection is also on full display at the paddock. This showcased the brand’s most iconic cars throughout history, from the R360, which is their first production car, all the way to rotary-powered icons like the Cosmo, the RX-7, and the RX-8. The collection wouldn’t be complete without their present-day models like the Mazda 3, CX-5, and a reincarnation of the rotary engine in range-extender form with the MX-30 R-EV.
As a recap, the Mazda MX-30 R-EV is a plug-in hybrid version of the MX-30. However, instead of being pure electric as we’ve seen when it was launched at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, the MX-30 R-EV uses a rotary engine to extend the car’s admittedly not-so-impressive pure electric range. The rotary engine is not connected to the wheels. Instead, it simply charges the 17.8 kWh lithium-ion battery that, on its own, is good for 107 kilometers of pure electric driving. With the rotary engine charging the battery, the MX-30 R-EV can travel up to 640 kilometers with its 50-liter fuel tank.
Together with the aforementioned vehicles powered by carbon-neutral fuels, the Mazda Fan Festa also showcases that the rotary engine isn’t dead yet. That MX-30 R-EV is part of Mazda’s multi-solution approach, wherein it isn’t just betting on battery electric vehicles (EVs) to solve carbon neutrality. While the rotary engine’s challenges when it comes to emissions are what killed the engine in 2012, Mazda is still hellbent on keeping the rotary engine alive in 2023 in whatever shape or form it’s deemed environmentally the best.
Mazda’s Emotionally-Rich Journey To Electrification
But is that what the rotary engine is left to do in 2023? Just simply perform behind the scenes and not anymore the main act in a vehicle? Well, we don’t know what Mazda has in store for this engine, but one thing that we know about Mazda is that they’re stubborn in keeping their cars emotionally rich, even in an era of electrification and carbon neutrality. And we love them for that.
In the world’s pursuit of electrification, it’s going to be hard for an automaker to stand out. As with every automaker, Mazda has accelerated its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2035, and by 2030, it’ll be releasing a whole host of EVs. In the mid-term, their current strategy lies in a multi-solution approach that will still see improvements in the internal combustion engine (ICE), and that’s already what we’re seeing with the CX-60 and CX-90, whose unique inline-6 gasoline engines are shuffling the status quo in the segment. At the same time, despite bucking the industry trend of engine downsizing, Mazda’s strategy with their ICEs has translated into improved real-world environmental performance thanks to mild-hybrid electrification as well as “right-sizing” a strategy which means fitting the appropriately-sized engine for the type of vehicle.
Eventually, however, Mazda has to big goodbye to the ICE as well. Without the noise of an ICE or the distinct power delivery provided by the various types of ICEs such as the rotary engine, EV drivetrains will soon make cars feel similar. The Mazda Fan Festa at Fuji Speedway isn’t just an event that celebrates the present, but it also connects the future without forgetting what Mazda is all about. Even in the EV age, we can be sure that these cars won’t simply be vehicles whose mechanical noises have been silenced by electric motors. Instead, through Mazda’s multi-solution approach to tackling carbon neutrality, there’ll be an emotionally rich Mazda that comes in different souls and driving experiences.
Mazda Fan Festa Is All About The Fans, Too
Outside of Mazda’s future plans and journey to electrification, the Mazda Fan Festa is also an event that puts its fans in the spotlight. Everything from Mazda’s factory racing team called Mazda Spirit Racing (MSR), all the way to the various tuning brands such as AutoExe and RE Amemiya, there’s a booth and a shop to enrich the fan in you.
AutoExe mainly caters to the present crop of Skyactiv-era Mazdas, while RE Amemiya mainly focuses on rotary-powered Mazdas. It’s a feast for those who love to dress up and tune their Mazdas and a great way to forget networks if you’re into this sort of stuff. Hopefully, I’ll finally be able to kick off my project car era with my personal Mazda 6 Wagon.
If you’re also a fan of the brand itself, the MSR booth also sells not just merchandise from the factory racing team, but also the miniature scale models of your favorite Mazda. MZ Racing–one of the brand’s major racing teams (albeit not by Mazda themselves) is also on-site, and they sell a whole range of merchandise ranging from their love Rotary campaign that puts the 787B front and center, all the way to the team’s other motorsports participations.
Mazda Fan Festa at Fuji Speedway is an event that looks into Mazda’s past, as well as looking forward to the future and cultivating its present fans. The event was hugely successful, partly due to the pent-up desire for its fans to attend such a gathering once again due to the pandemic locking us up in our homes. Mazda, as mentioned numerous times, is a company that’s all about making emotionally rich cars, and what better way to cultivate that emotion than by organizing an event that connects the fans right at the heart of the company? Mazda is more than just a company that makes cars because it also has developed a habit of creating a culture within the company and its fans that’s unlike anything else–one that’s even enough to break records, mind you.