Mazda will be the first Japanese automaker to sell a diesel-powered passenger car in America starting next year and the Zoom-Zoom brand will use motorsports to promote the advantages of diesel to an often skeptical consumer base.
“Mazda is launching a Skyactiv clean diesel motorsports program to showcase the quality, durability, and reliability of that production based engine,” says Dean Case, the communications lead for Mazdaspeed Motorsports.
Still, Case insists that the focus will not be solely on left-brain attributes of the engine, with performance being an underlying quality of all Mazda products. “All Mazda powertrains must meet Mazda customer expectations for performance, regardless of whether it (is) piston vs rotary or gasoline vs diesel,” he says, continuing that, “It must be Zoom-Zoom in nature.”
This we can attest to after driving the near-production Skyactiv-D engines in Vancouver, Canada several months back, with the diesel engine delivering not just an expectantly high level of torque, but also a surprisingly high power band, revving 500 rpm beyond a conventional diesel engine, giving the Skyactiv-D a more consistent feel, akin to that of a powerful and large displacement naturally aspirated gasoline engine.
Still, don’t look for diesel technology to be the foundation of Mazda’s performance initiatives moving forward. Case has confirmed that the Skyactiv-D race cars will not be branded as Mazdaspeed but rather as “Mazda Skyactiv-D”. He did, however, qualify that statement by adding that “Mazdaspeed Motorsports and Mazda Motorsports” are terms the company uses interchangeably when it comes to racing.
Included in Mazda’s diesel motorsports program will be entries next year in the Grand Am series as well as a recently announced initiative to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an LMP2 class car run by Dempsey Racing. A prototype, the Grand Am cars are all but confirmed to be production-based versions of the 2014 Mazda6, previewed in the Takeri concept (side).
Still, Mazda is keeping its options open and isn’t committing only to diesels in its extensive motorsports involvement. “Mazda is involved in over a dozen motorsports programs ranging from Spec Miata to ALMS and GRAND-AM,” says Case. “Powertrain choices are a function of business objectives and the rules packages as defined by the series. You will continue to see Mazda gasoline powered piston and rotary engines in 2013 and beyond.”