This past weekend was a unique opportunity to visit an event I had never been to before but had heard a lot about. It was the 20th anniversary of Seven Stock at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Seven Stock is all things rotary Mazda. All types of rotary-powered Mazdas, all originating from the RX-7, are highlighted there. It’s a tuner show, and you see so many different cars, from race cars to drift cars to show cars.

It was obvious to me how important this event is to Mazda as they embrace their heritage. The president of Mazda North America, Moro-san, was on hand to address the crowd and see the cars. The head of the Mazda North America Powertrain Division was also there, and it sounds like a lot of exciting new developments are coming in the near future for Mazda (read more about Skyactiv-X here).

Seven Stock is combined with a track event, too. Mazda Motorsports had a few of its drivers out to showcase their heritage rotary racecars, like we did at the Monterey Reunion. This time, though, I had the unique pleasure of being able to jump into the 787B, which actually competed at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1990 and ‘91. It wasn’t the winning car from ’91, but it did finish in the top 10 that year.

In some ways you think about 26 years being a long time ago, and there’s been so much advancement in technology in motorsports with electronics and materials since then. In a lot of ways, though, there are still plenty of parallels. Carbon fiber was already in use then, and there’s an electronic dash, similar to what you’d find in modern racecars, rather than analog gauges.

One thing that was very different was the feel of where you sit in the car: you’re very forward, and your feet are at the front axle line. That actually made it seemingly easier to drive, because you felt like you were directing where the car was going from the front, rather than the middle.

The other thing that was different was the gearbox. It was H-pattern, like street cars have. For longevity purposes, we used the clutch to upshift and downshift. The gearbox was very robust and had no issues running a 24-hour race, but it was different to be shifting like you would in a road car. Of course, it felt and shifted in a way that was very much built for motorsports!

The sound of the car was amazing: a four-rotor spinning up has such a unique hum! And the power was really impressive. These cars have more power than our modern-day prototypes do because the rules were broader then. They are closer to 700hp, so you really knew it when you got into the powerband.

Having an opportunity like this with the historic cars always gives me a huge appreciation for the history of Mazda. The race cars aren’t just on display, but driving on the track. And of course it was neat to interact with all the rotary fans. There were huge crowds when warming up the cars before each session, with lots of photos and videos being taken. There was large appreciation from the fans and owners who were there supporting us.