Mazda embraces its motorsports heritage

  • 31-Mar-2008 07:48 EDT

Mazda Furai

When Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda’s North American Director of Design, revved the Furai concept’s 450-hp rotary engine, the company’s NAIAS exhibition stand rumbled, and a sharp cracking sound echoed throughout the hall. “It sounds good, doesn’t it?” von Holzhausen asked as he exited the vehicle to address the crowd.

The Furai, which is Japanese for “sound of the wind” and pronounced “foo-rye,” represents Mazda’s continued adherence to its new Nagare design philosophy. It also represents an anomaly in the world of concept cars—it actually works. Powered by E100 ethanol as part of a new partnership with BP, the Furai boasts a mid-mounted, Renesis-based three-rotor rotary engine. Based on the company’s Courage C65 chassis that it campaigned in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) two seasons ago, the Furai is built to be speedy.

“We were looking for a way to bridge the gap between Mazda Motorsports and the production vehicles in our lineup,” von Holzhausen said. “The mind-sets of road-car and racing-car fans are quite different, so the purpose of Furai is to find a meeting point for these disparate interests.”

Working closely with Swift Engineering, Mazda’s R&D teams refined the Furai’s aerodynamic characteristics, making certain the vehicle remains glued to the road at high speeds. The team also used complex CFD software to tune various Nagare design elements to function at a high degree of efficiency. Drag, downforce, lift, and overall aesthetics were all key considerations. Sourced straight from the racetrack, the Courage carbon-composite tub is essentially intact under the new Furai body.

As evidenced with the rest of Mazda’s Nagare concepts (i.e., Ryuga, Hakaze, Taiki), the Furai hints at a number of future possibilities for the brand. But with no definitive word from Mazda on when this philosophy will actually be applied to its production vehicles, one can only speculate when, or if, we’ll ever see the Furai on the road.

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