There has never been a four-door diesel sedan in the Grand-Am series, until now: The blunt, bewinged grille of the Mazda6 GX has blown right through that wall. It's said that racing improves the breed, but usually the breed has gone on sale when the racing begins. One of the unusual aspects of the Mazda6 GX, on the other hand, is that while the diesel won't go on sale to the public until later this year, it will already have tasted racing blood by the end of the day. That kind of reversal is more likely found with super coupes like the Lexus LFA and Honda NSX.

Mazda has taken class wins at Daytona's 24-hour race a whopping 23 times since 1975, most recently in 2010 with the RX-8 in the GT class. This year the Hiroshima company decided to show off its SkyActiv technology, then turned things up to eleven by opting for its SkyActiv-D instead of the more conventional SkyActiv-G gas engine to run in the new GX class. It will be joined by competitors like the Lotus Evora and Porsche Cayman in the class, nevertheless, at 2.4 liters, it's the smallest engine on the grid.

Time has not been a friend, either – Mazda said that the first five SkyActiv-D engines off the production line went to Speed Source in Coral Springs, Florida, the company that preps Mazda's race vehicles. Still, race driver Jonathan Baumarito on the #70 car said that although the engine's been on the dyno since February of last year, it's only been in the car for about a month and there have been only a couple of test days.

Speed Source owner, team driver and multiple 24-hour winner Sylvain Tremblay – he drove in the teams that won in 2008 and 2010 in the RX-8 – said the big challenge right now is getting the gearing right. Both Tremblay and Baumarito said that the diesel's torque is a plus through the Bus Stop section at the back of the course, entered after coming off the high-speed banked turn. But Tremblay said that the first infield section of horseshoes is more trying because the SkyActiv-D needs to be on boost to get its power on, and that doesn't happen until after 3,500; maintaining that through slow-speed turns and having enough to get the job done through the high-speed ovals is the test.

There are three Mazda6 GXs competing, Everyone is cautiously optimistic about how things might go during the race, but in fairness this has to be looked at as a 24-hour testing session. Road & Track rode shotgun for a lap in the #00 Visit Florida Racing car, you can check out the sounds of diesel at Daytona in the video below.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      Karl T
      • 1 Year Ago
      As a Mazda6 owner, sports car racing fan and 19 yr SCCA safety official, they screwed-up by not properly developing and testing the car before entering the 24. Falling out 12-16-18 hours in is one thing. Falling out with the same problem on 2 of 3 cars 3-4 hours in is embarrassing and someone needs to be held accountable.
        Greg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Karl T
        That would be great if they had the time & man-power to do that. It's pretty clear that Mazda has been working double shifts to get their new products out the door. I'm sure they agree with you about getting ready first, but you play the hand you're dealt. I believe this overall lack of manpower is one reason we haven't seen the diesel in the US yet. (They barely got the 6 here on time.) Now that it is here, those guys will get the diesel ready for the US, and then they'll likely be moved to fast-tracking the 3 for its overdue overhaul.
      Hedo D
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just give us diesel versions of Mazda6 wagon and Mazda5. There has not been a diesel minivan yet in US.
      mazdamattyp5
      • 1 Year Ago
      A compound twin-turbocharged diesel has to get up to 3500rpms for the boost to come on? Doesn't seem right. I understand the Skyactiv-D is more like a gasoline engine but I thought the whole point of the compound-charging was to have constant boost through the entire rev-range with no lag.
        wartzilla
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mazdamattyp5
        I agree. If you look under the hood you also see that there's absolutely massive lengths of tubing between the chargers and the intercooler. They really should have used a water-cooled intercooler to avoid that. They should have given this project to Scheid Diesel or Haisley Machine instead of gasoline tuners.
        k_m94
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mazdamattyp5
        A diesel that needs over 3500 rpm to hit its stride must have an incredibly narrow powerband.
      aviboy97
      • 1 Year Ago
      Too bad a faulty nut in the fuel lines garaged all three racers. Looks like a work in progress....
      Sean
      • 1 Year Ago
      That is a phenomenal looking front end... ugh I love this car.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      @ Sebastian Bianco, As a topic for automotive news, racing Mazda diesels may hold interest for fans of Mazda, or the Grand-Am series, or even diesel engines. Great ! Excellent story for AB But what on earth has this article got to do with ABG ?Diesel racing is hardly new, nor environmental ! No offence to AB fan's, but if I wanted to read about diesels, I would read AB !
      zizixx89
      • 1 Year Ago
      This and the altima are game changers
      Dennis
      • 1 Year Ago
      "racing improves the breed, but usually the breed has gone on sale when the racing begins." LOL seriously? Is this a car blog at all? This mazda6 is nothing like the production vehicle...it doesn't even share the same chassis! this is clearly a tube frame chassis with a mazda6-looking shell on it. The only part that can be argued as production is the engine, but it is still heavily modified.
        P
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dennis
        Wow, really? Tell us more... It's not a secret that this is a custom chassis (which always underpinned the RX8's, etc.) and even the "production" tubs competing bear minimal resemblance to actual production counterparts. And how exactly is a production engine supposed to go endurance racing at Daytona without being heavily modified? If you knew anything about endurance racing or this tech, you'd agree that putting this on track is a pretty big achievement.
        wartzilla
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dennis
        The engine is actually, to their credit, mostly stock. (...by weight, at least.) They've used an unprecedented amount of stock parts. Unfortunately as you said the car itself bears little resemblance to the production vehicle. Like any race car worth its salt, this car is rear-wheel drive and has the engine mounted longitudinal. A total reversal of the transverse, FWD production vehicle. If the production vehicle was RWD, I'd want one.
      Joel B.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The GX class is a joke. The Mazda's were not prepared for the race, and now the class is alone with 3 Porsches. Nothing against Porsche, they have outstanding history when it comes to endurance racing. I just don't see the need for another GT style class with more Porsches that have nothing to bring to the series than just Caymans with 3.8 engines. It sure is impressive, but there are enough Porsches already in the GT class. Wish they somehow could've gotten something like the Deltawing. That is something worthy of a new class, but there would have to be more than one.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Joel B.
        Agreed. The class was created just so Mazda could get out there and then Mazda didn't prepare properly. Their 3 cars were 3 of the first 4 cars to retire from the race in any class. Hopefully the class will get better as the season goes along.
      mylexicon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Honestly, I'm really sick of drivers banging through clutchless-sequential dogboxes. Can we please use all three pedals on touring cars and GTs so racing resembles a sport? Nice car by the way. Pretty sure I saw one at the airport. Nice proportions, and the rear decklid is at an appropriate height. Very nice styling work. Far better than other bland midsized cars.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mylexicon
        Dogboxes have all 3 pedals. You just don't use them all the time. You don't have to use all 3 all the time on your street car either. Honestly, bump shifted dog boxes are the closest we'll see to a normal manual on racing cars anymore (outside of NASCAR). Computer rev-matching is so much less stressful on the clutch and gearbox and thus is critical in an endurance race.
      Autolegend
      • 1 Year Ago
      What a horrible joke. All 3 cars were gone before i even got to the track. Go Magnus.
      DudM
      • 1 Year Ago
      What this relates to production 6??
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