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RYAN BEENE

On the track, Mazda execs rev their zoom-zoom skills

Ryan Beene is a Los Angeles-based reporter for Automotive News
MONTEREY, Calif. – Zoom-Zoom isn't just Mazda's tag line - it's in its blood.

I'm typing this from the company's suite overlooking Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca after spending the morning with the company's top U.S. execs as they raced back and forth between being gracious hosts and doing a little racing of their own - on the track.

Weldon Munsey, director of dealer affairs, piloted a 1992 GTP rotary-engine powered GTP racer – the American equivalent of the class of race cars that run at LeMans. The car is powered by a 2.3-liter, four-rotor rotary engine generating about 638 horsepower at the wheels.

Munsey, Mazda's ruddy-faced dealer chief with a southern drawl, took first place in his class of other GTP cars of the era with the fastest time.

He was Mazda's second employee to qualify.

Earlier, communications director Jeremy Barnes drove a 1962 Lotus 22 formula racer to the top qualifying time in his class. The British PR man was slow out of the gate, allowing a gap of road to open up between him and the pack of roughly 30 vintage formula race cars from 1958-1962 distance themselves from Barnes' red No. 88 car.

Barnes and Munsey weren't alone. In the pit were Mazda CEO Jim O'Sullivan, senior VP and top product and R&D guru Robert Davis, and VP of government and public affairs, Jay Amestoy.

Davis, though he didn't drive today, get's plenty of racing in. He owns a team called Robert Davis Racing that races spec Mazda RX-8's in competition, too.

A lot has been made in the press lately of Toyota President Akio Toyoda's Lexus LFA racing to bolster his track credentials.

After spending the day with Mazda, it's clear that he's not the only one in the industry getting some track time.

Mazda communications director Jeremy Barnes waits for his qualifying group to begin in a 1962 Lotus 22 formula car. He had the best qualifying time in the group. Photo credit: Ryan Beene
Mazda CEO Jim O'Sullivan helps Weldon Munsey, dealer affairs director, prep for a qualifying run in a Mazda 1992 RX-792P GTP racecar. Photo credit: Ryan Beene

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