Diesel has without a doubt become the dominant fuel in the modern era of endurance racing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been won under diesel power for the past eight years running, as has every race in the FIA World Endurance Championship since its inauguration in 2012. Yet there will only be one diesel prototype entered in the top tier of the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship this year, and it belongs to Mazda.
The last Japanese manufacturer to win at Le Mans outright, Mazda has been gradually working its way back up the endurance racing ladder once again, following the example set by Audi with diesel power. Last year it campaigned a competition-spec Mazda6 Skyactiv-D in the GX class of the Grand-Am series, but rather than simply port over the existing racer into the new series, it’s fielding a new prototype instead, just as it promised a couple of months ago. And now that prototype has hit the track for the first time, prompting Mazda to release its basic specs for the first time.
Tentatively referred to simply as the 2014 Mazda Prototype, the purpose-built racecar is testing this weekend in the Roar Before the 24, the official test session at Daytona that kicks off the racing season. It packs a 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D engine that’s based heavily on the production version but tuned to produce 450 horsepower and 580 pound-feet of torque in race trim. Power is channeled through a six-speed sequential transmission from Xtrac, carbon brakes from AP and 18-inch racing slicks from Continental. With the Daytona-spec aero setup, it’ll top out at around 186 miles per hour.
Oddly, despite outlining a number of very specific parameters in the press release below, Mazda didn’t specify how many cylinders the engine packs or who made the carbon monocoque chassis, but it doesn’t take much to deduce the cylinder count as four and the chassis as a Lola-built LMP2. Either way, a pair of these prototypes will be dicing it with a variety of other Le Mans and Daytona prototypes at the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month and throughout the inaugural United SportsCar Championship this season. Mazda has already announced it’s keeping the same four drivers in place it employed for the GX entry last season, with two more to be announced shortly.