How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks
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How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

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The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness

There were a pair manufacturers at the 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours trying to make it two wins from two starts at the French classic. Jaguar was aiming to repeat its 1990 triumph, while Mercedes was looking to follow up on its 1989 victory after a year away. Then there was Porsche with the factory-backed Joest team and its flotilla of privateers, 15 Group C cars in total.

Peugeot had arrived with a big budget and ambitions to match as it flew the Tricolore in the pursuit of a first home win at La Sarthe since 1980. But there was another manufacturer going for outright honours at the 24 Hours. Mazda flew right under the radar and on to a famous victory with Johnny Herbert, Bertrand Gachot and Volker Weidler.

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