Motorsports Culture in Mazda

Mazda North American Operations CEO Masahiro Moro and new Mazda Motorsports Director Nelson Cosgrove discuss the importance of motorsports in Mazda

Mazda isn’t the smallest brand in the United States automotive scene, but it’s far from the biggest. Among the Japanese manufacturers, the largest will sell about seven times more cars per year than Mazda. Yet if you go to a club race, more than half of the cars there will be Mazdas or powered by Mazda motors. While part of that is the fact that Mazda has a long history of producing lightweight sports cars like the RX-7 and Miata that make for great race cars, it also stems from the deep focus that Mazda puts on motorsports.

“Mazda is a relatively small player, so we need to focus on what we do, and one place where we really engage is in building up a strong fan base; for Mazda, motorsports is a big deal,” explains Masahiro Moro, Mazda North American Operations CEO and someone who dabbles in racing himself. “One reason for this is because of what we call the ‘Never Stop Challenging Spirit.’ That has been at the core of our DNA for a long time. Motorsports is one of the great examples of where we can deliver that spirit to many people. Secondly, motorsports has nurtured a lot of strong fans for Mazda, and that has continued to develop over time. In the States, many people love Mazda’s presence in motorsports as we continue to engage ourselves to compete in several series. I think that is one area that really has been very successful, and particularly, I like the grassroots element of it.”

Nelson Cosgrove has experienced an immersion into Mazda’s motorsports culture over the past few weeks. The new director for Mazda Motorsports, Cosgrove replaces John Doonan, who is leaving to head up the International Motor Sports Association. Cosgrove comes to Mazda after stints at Ford, Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and, most recently, Toyota Racing Development. The latter is the largest Japanese manufacturer in terms of U.S. sales, and the bulk of its motorsports focus in recent years has come in the forms of NASCAR and off-road racing, with luxury brand Lexus fielding the sports car efforts.

“People are excited within the company,” Cosgrove says about Mazda’s motorsports efforts following his first visit to Mazda’s U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California. “Everyone is excited about where it’s headed; people are excited about motorsports and walk around with the [Mazda RT-24P] DPi car on their t-shirts. It’s amazing to see the excitement around motorsports. 

“Moro-San told me that one of the changes in the dealerships was to have motorsports content inside,” he continues. “I went to Keffer Mazda in Huntersville, N.C., and it’s very prominent. The Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B is one of the first things you see when you walk into the new dealerships. It’s part of the DNA.”

The current state of Mazda’s Daytona Prototype international program in IMSA is an excellent example of the Never Stop Challenging Spirit. After several instances of coming painfully close to victory, Mazda Team Joest scored three straight wins this past summer, which is a tough feat against players like Acura, Cadillac and Nissan. And, Moro notes, that the spirit that permeates through the company.

“The DPi program started a few years back, but victory doesn’t always come so easy,” Moro explains. “We knew that because of the program for Le Mans – that took 18 years to get there. The important thing is the team has engaged in the vision to continue pushing the boundaries, changing and improving, and the Never Stop Challenging philosophy. Everybody has that kind of passion to work hard, and this is something very influential to our employees. I like to see them wearing something Mazda Motorsports, so that they are really part of the family. That’s why we have to keep our brand promise going, and to continue pushing the boundaries. We are small, but have a big heart.”