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Mazda rotary: It's officially happening!

By Andy Enright, 04 Sep 2017 News

Mazda rotary: It's officially happening!

Top brass confirms that sports car rotary engine development is well under way

We’ve seen the computer-generated images and read the conjecture in magazines, but until now Mazda’s forthcoming sports car rotary engine has largely been based on speculation rather than fact. At Mazda’s Tech Forum in Frankfurt, company bosses confirmed that its development is in an advanced stage.

“We’re still continuing development of the next generation rotary engine,” said Mitsuo Hitomi, Managing Executive Officer in charge of Technical Research Centre and Integrated Control System Development. During Wheels’ interview, he confirmed that range extender tech is being applied to a sports car engine.

Some Mazda executives were a little more reticent about going on record regarding the rotary. One opened his interview session by saying “no questions on rotary” and the engine was omitted from Mazda’s ‘Zoom-Zoom 2030’ roadmap. Perhaps that’s because it’s hard to reconcile this engine with Mazda’s sustainability message.

“We cannot improve the rotary engine to the current conventional engine emissions,” admitted Hitomi, but went on to say that ironing out traditional rotary issues such as apex seal wear and oil consumption were “the focus point of the new rotary engine”.

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“We are investigating various kinds of emission systems to ensure ideal conditions,” said Hitomi. This backed up statement from a prior interview with Hidetoshi Kudo, Executive Officer in charge of R&D Administration and Product Strategy. “As you know, flame propagation is an issue in rotary engines. We are looking at laser ignition and plasma ignition, but laser is very expensive,” said Kudo.

Indeed, budgetary issues are something that Mazda has to overcome with the rotary project, some major shareholders still remain unconvinced by the potential return on investment. “In the past, Mazda’s profits were up, down, up, down,” admitted Kudo, acknowledging that the company’s engineering and enthusiast focus was often prioritised above potential profits.

“Rotary is very important to Mazda,” he stressed. “It’s Mazda’s centenary in 2020,” he noted, adding that this deadline would be a big driver for tech-driven launches. And perhaps we’ve just been given the unpublished roadmap for Mazda’s next rotary-engined sports car.