Mazda Manufacturer Profile & Rally History

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Mazda Home Country: Japan Japan

Like most Japanese car manufacturers, Mazda was founded in the mid 1930s. It was from the beginning part of the Toyo Kogyo Heavy Industries Group, although the Mazda name origins from the surname of the founder of this car brand: Jujiro Matsuda.

Mazda had to be persuaded into rallying like it seems typical for the Japanese. Early efforts by New Zealand’s Rod Millen and Finnish Mazda dealer son Timo Salonen seemed to be ignored and even when Achim Warmbold created a European Mazda preparation business, MRT/E = Mazda Rally Team (Europe), based in Bruxelles, Belgium, Mazda headquarters appeared to ignore it. (Warmbold always had a hang to rich places, at first for a very brief period MRT was based in Geneve, Switzerland, then Bruxelles, today the German lives in Monaco.) Although eventually Warmbold succeeded to gain their attention, this did not seem to help the project at first. Achim Warmbold first created a group A 323, just to get his hands in. This 323 was an old fashioned car, it had only FWD but it featured a turbo engine. The 323 was a short lived project as it was only a warm up for an extraordinary adventure: Next in line was a group B RX7 with a Wankel (rotary) engine and quite surprisingly this unusual RWD vehicle managed a podium in the 1985 Rally Acropolis. This was about the time Mazda woke up, but they didn’t want to support the group B RX7, they wanted to throw their effort behind a group A 323 again. This maybe was not as bad logic as it sounds. There was a new model 323 and it had 4x4 as well as a turbo engine, such in some events it promised to be just as efficient as the group B car, even though it was in a lower class. The timing of this project could not have been any more perfect: the 323 4WD Turbo debuted in Monte Carlo 1986. While this was before the group B disasters happened, its launch was only 1 year away from the ban of group B and by the time group A became compulsory only Mazda (not even Lancia!) had a well proven 4x4 turbo car! JACK POT!

Indeed when group A became the norm with the start of the 1987 season, everybody regarded the Mazda as a major threat. However it never turned out quite like this. The car had the perfect size and shape, it in fact was by about everybody regarded as a really sweet and easy handling car and it had a year of competition under its belt. Still, it only had a 1.6 turbo engine, which simply wasn’t strong enough and even more surprisingly after all that preparation, the car still had major reliability issues especially in the transmission. This even went as far as the team withdrawing their entry to the 1987 RAC because they didn’t believe they could get away without major embarrassment.

And in following years there seemed to appear ever more questions rather than answers. They started already into 1987 as favourites alongside Lancia and ended up being beaten by teams like i.e. Renault (FWD) and Audi (withdraw halfway through the season) and in the end Mazda only were a poor 6th in the makes WRC. For 1988 Warmbold signed a star line up with Hannu Mikkola alongside Timo Salonen, which however still failed to improve the results. In 1989 there were major arguments within the team in which Mikkola navigator Christian Geistdörfer left without notice, it came to a court case only to reveal that Warmbold never signed Geistdörfer’s copy of the contract! Though Warmbold had a good eye for young exciting drivers as he gave i.e. first works drives to Harri Toivonen, Jesus Puras and Tommi Mäkinen, and that they couldn't really further their carreers in this was again more down to Mazda's base cars rather than team management. In 1990 the long awaited more powerful Mazda arrived, but its displacement was only increased from 1.6 to 1.8, so while power wasn’t improved much, reliability wasn’t improved either. By 1991 came what was somehow already expected: Mazda withdraw from rallying and wasn’t seen since. The group A 323 4WD Turbo was Mazda’s only ever full scale WRC program and it wasn’t a successful one. One may be tempted to say they didn’t deserve any better. But while the car may always have been underpowered and unreliable, one can not line out strong enough that its handling already in group N trim was absolutely fantastic and would to the day count as one of the best ever in a 4x4 car.


Mazda had always a layout of 3 shades blue on a white base, it somehow reminded of Ford’s traditional house colour scheme. Only the very last 323 had a little turquoise and purple added to it, which wasn’t necessarily an improvement.

For tyres they have always been on Michelin.


Simply normal Belgian plates, see our general registration guide.

Mazda Rally Cars

Model Class
Mazda Mazda 1300/RX3  Group 2
Mazda Mazda 323 (BD/2)  Group A
Mazda Mazda 323 (BF/3)  Group A
Mazda Mazda 323 (BF/3)  Group N
Mazda Mazda 323 (BG/4)  Group A
Mazda Mazda 323 (BG/4)  Group N
Mazda Mazda RX7 (FB/1)  Group B

Rally Honour Roll

Year Class Place Manufacturer Events
1993 WRC Group A 6th. Mazda (33pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1991 WRC Group A 5th. Mazda (44pts) 14

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1990 WRC Group A 5th. Mazda (30pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1989 WRC Group A 3rd. Mazda (67pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1988 WRC Group A 4th. Mazda (66pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1987 WRC Group A 6th. Mazda (52pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1986 WRC Group B 11th. Mazda (9pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1985 WRC Group B 10th. Mazda (22pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1984 WRC Group B 13th. Mazda (2pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1983 WRC Open 11th. Mazda (9pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1982 WRC Open 14th. Mazda (14pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar