At the 1977 Champion Spark Plug Road Racing Classic – what the Sports Car Club of America’s National Championship Runoffs was called then – at Road Atlanta, the B Sedan grid was full of Datsuns. That was only to be expected, as Datsuns had ruled the class for the previous six years. There was also an Alfa Romeo and one Mazda RX-3 in the hands of Stuart Fisher. One might guess where this is going….
Mazda invited Fisher to be at this year’s Runoffs dinner for Mazda’s racers. With the help of motorsports broadcast journalist Dave Despain, he told the story of Mazda’s first SCCA National Championship.
“When I decided to get out of the [Formula Vee] and get into a factory car, I was told it would be best if I got a Datsun because you could get parts for it,” recounted Fisher. “I bought the Mazda anyway because I liked it. Then I started getting some parts from certain sources, Mazda being one of them, and went racing.”
The odds were certainly stacked against Fisher and the RX-3 based on sheer numbers. But the Mazda was fast, and Fisher qualified well.
“I qualified fifth on the grid. My friend up on the pole position had trouble and pulled off on the back straight. We continued on and the guys in front of me moved up a row, so I moved up a row and ended up starting in fourth place. I was third going into Turn 1 and second on the back straight, after Dave Frellsen. I just followed him as long as I could. He kept pulling away from me at two seconds a lap,” Fisher said.
“I don’t know what happened on the 12th lap; we were going down to start-finish and Dave’s car blew a transmission. So I got by him. I couldn’t believe it; there I was in front. I went around the track and the crowd was going nuts. They were waving flags and throwing things up in the air and jumping up and down on their cars.”
With a field full of Datsuns (Frellsen had won three years running from 1973-’75 and Elliot Forbes-Robinson won in a Datsun in ’76), the crowd was as surprised as Fisher was to see the Mazda out front.
After winning in ’77, Fisher qualified on pole and set fast lap the following year, but finished fourth in B Sedan. In ’78 he finished fifth before moving to a C Production RX-7 for a couple of years. After 1980, he didn’t return to the Runoffs and got out of racing.
His journey to becoming Mazda’s first SCCA National Champion began with the purchase of an Elva Courier to do some autocrossing. When a commercial filmed in the bank where he worked – a commercial in which he had a part – put some money in his pocket, he went to driver’s school, which generated a story that Despain found particularly amusing.
“We were under the car, it was raining hard and we were laying in about an inch-and-a-half of water, underneath the Elva trying to tie it down to the trailer to go to driver’s school,” Fisher said. “It was pouring, freezing cold and my brother turns to me and says, ‘I want you to remember this: Racing is fun!’”
Fisher’s win was the first of many for Mazda drivers. In the years following, Mazda powered another 78 champions, including five in 2013. Who will be No. 80 when the 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs happens at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next October?