Mazda used the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show to unveil its 2017 CX-5 SUV, but it also brought something a little more exciting.
The Japanese automaker debuted its latest race car for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will race under the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) rules for that series. It’s called the RT24-P, and will make its racing debut at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona 24-hour race in January.
Racing is a valuable marketing tool for automakers, which is why the Mazda has such an ungainly name. The “RT24” represents the Mazda Road to 24, a driver development program that provides a path for aspiring racers to enter the professional ranks. It’s something Mazda likes to promote to show its commitment to motor sports, which in turn backs up the “Zoom-Zoom” marketing of its road cars.
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The “P” stands for “Prototype,” meaning the car is purpose built for racing rather than based off a production model. Mazda says the “24” also signifies the engine, which is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Mounted behind the driver, that tiny engine produces an astonishing 600 horsepower.
Small engines have been Mazda’s calling card since it started racing in the Prototype class back in 2014. Its cars were initially powered by a 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder, which was supposed to tie in with plans to offer the same engine in a U.S.-market production model. Those plans were eventually put on the back burner, and Mazda switched to the current 2.0-liter gasoline engine for the 2016 season.
While the engine carries over, the body is completely different. The new car is based on a Riley Mk. 30 design, but Mazda tried to incorporate some of its own “Kodo” design language. That’s especially apparent up front, where a grille similar to ones on Mazda’s road cars creates a distinctive look, although it probably serves no real function. Even if doesn’t take the checkered flag, Mazda is clearly aiming to win the race-car beauty contest at Daytona in January.