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by Brett Davis

The Mazda RX-8 may be headed for the automotive graveyard when production of the four-door coupe ceases in June 2012, but Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi says development of a next-generation rotary will continue under his reign.

At this week’s 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Yamanouchi spoke out about his feelings on the brand’s rotary heritage.

“I’m very attached to the rotary engine,” he said. “So long as I am president then research and development in this area will continue.”

Mazda first released a rotary-engined vehicle back in 1967 in the Mazda Cosmo 110S, and from there we saw a string of RX sports coupes right up until today’s Mazda RX-8. Now, an ‘RX-9′ is on the horizon – the name is yet to be finalised.

Some of the issues slowing development of the new model – said to be powered by a ’16X’ Renesis engine – involve resolving the typical fuel efficiency and pollution issues to allow it to meet the Euro 6 emissions.

Mazda engineers have previously confirmed they are working on a new ignition technology, dubbed ‘laser-ignition’. A senior engineer at Mazda revealed earlier this year that the new model will feature a “special kind of ignition system”, potentially improving efficiency.

Mazda will also apply its latest SKYACTIV engineering technology to the upcoming model. The SKYACTIV philosophy includes an aim to reduce the weight of all future Mazdas by 100kg. A lightweight platform for the RX-9 will contribute to not only high performance driving characteristics, but fuel efficiency as well.

Interestingly, Yamanouchi has hinted at a potential reintroduction of the rotary in motorsport, remembering Mazda’s famous Le Mans victory in 1991 with the quad-rotor Mazda 787b.

“I’m not saying we will participate in Le Mans, but most people know that the companies that win use diesel, and our SKYACTIV technology is very efficient and gives strong torque.

“Unfortunately right now the Yen situation is putting huge pressure on profitability, but once the Yen improves or the situation is overcome then we will give a desire to return more actively to motorsport.”

Timing for the new RX-9 is impossible to tell at this stage.

Do you think it’s good to see Mazda sticking to its roots and pushing on with the rotary despite all of the hurdles? Would you like to see the rotary engine evolve? Let us know in the comments section below.




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