Team Sahlen Year-In-Review

Team Sahlen keeps the rotary flame burning with OVERALL Victory for the 2nd straight year in Endurance Sports Car Racing.

The long time Mazda racers at Team Sahlen, presented by, continue to keep the flames coming from their rotary engine in front of the pack in Endurance Sports Car Racing. In 2016, the team secured OVERALL Victories in both the World Racing League and ChampCar Endurance Series. This was accomplished with Team Sahlen’s rotary powered Mazda RX-7s.

For the 2017 season, the team again raced their trio of Rotary powered Mazdas. The team competed in 3 different Sports Car Endurance Series: American Endurance Racing, World Racing League and ChampCar Endurance Series. Each series offered a unique set of car specs and competition rules that the team had to adjust for.

At the end of the year, the team successfully repeated an OVERALL Victory using a Rotary motor. This achievement occurred at the fall ChampCar Endurance Series Pittsburgh Grand Prix held at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Not only did Team Sahlen lead the majority of the 7 hour enduro, but set the fastest race lap of the 69-car field.

For Team Sahlen, the victory was special not only for winning with the rotary motor once more, but also in part due to their heart break loss at the same exact race the prior year. The team had led the 2016 Pittsburgh event until the last 10 minutes of the race, when a failed exhaust forced the team to the pits for repairs.

Wayne Nonnamaker shared his thoughts – “It’s always tough to lose a close race, but it’s even more difficult when you have a failure with only 3 laps left in a 7-hour event. We really wanted to come back to the Pittsburgh Grand Prix event and have another shot at overall victory. We worked extra hard in the off season to work on our reliability so that we could be in contention throughout these long endurance events.”

 Team Sahlen’s history with Mazda in Endurance Sports Car Racing in North America dates back beyond the past two years. In fact, the team’s history spans all the way back to the early ’90s.

Driver Will Nonnamaker shared fond memories from this period in the 1990s –“In 1994, we debuted the Mazda MX-6 in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series. As with any new production car that is transformed into a race car, there is always considerable development work. We worked closely with the Mazdaspeed team in California to develop the MX-6 into a consistent front runner. In 1997 we were successful in winning the Street Touring (ST Class) Championship. We were able to follow that up in 1999, racing the Mazda 626 four door sedan to the Street Touring Championship.

Over the next decade, Team Sahlen would continue to successfully campaign Mazda racecars in Endurance Racing across North America. These racecars included the RX-8, Mazdaspeed3 and the RX-8 GT racer. It was in the Mazda RX-8 GT racer that Team Sahlen was able to deliver the last ever professional victory for the Rotary motor at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2012.

For 2018, Team Sahlen will again campaign their trio of RX-7s in the ChampCar Endurance Series in hopes to continue the rotary winning tradition.