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Mazda Furai concept: first official pictures

Published: 09 January 2008

The new Furai is designed to blend the boundaries between road cars and race cars, according to Mazda. The Japanese company claims that on any given weekend there are more Mazdas and Mazda-powered cars pounding the racetracks of the USA than of any other make. And to celebrate this, and 40 years of the rotary engine, Mazda has given us the Furai concept.

Furai is Japanese for the sound of the wind – no fart jokes please – and underneath that swooping bodywork sits a carbonfibre chassis from the Courage C65 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) racer.

The Furai is the fifth Mazda concept to feature the Nagare's 'flow' surface treatment, after Nagare, Ryuga, Hakaze and Taiki. The look won’t be seen on the facelifted RX-8 – which will debut alongside the Furai at Detroit next week – but we will see it on the new 3 due later in 2008.

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What should I know about the Furai? Does it go like the wind?

We said no jokes! But yes, the Furai will be quick - and green. Power comes from the same 450bhp triple-rotor rotary engine that Mazda used to campaign the ALMS car in 2005 and 2006. And now it’s been developed to run on pure ethanol.

While such a rotary engine won’t be seen in a roadgoing Mazda any time soon, the company isn’t about to abandon the Renesis motor. Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda North American operations director of design, says the company ‘has no intention of abandoning that valuable asset.’ The dark matt finish of the Furai, with red and orange highlights, is a tribute to the 787B, the only car from a Japanese manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24hrs (it too was rotary powered).

Racecar heart, eco blood

The ethanol-powered engine is a move designed to mirror the adoption of renewable fuels in race series around the world, while the switch of the Courage chassis to a closed cockpit is another forward-looking move. Both ALMS and the Le Mans 24hrs regulations are changing to promote such a design, as seen by the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP racer.

The interior of the Furai is a little less extreme than the outside, though it’s still very business-like with few creature comforts.

Come back to CAR Online next week for a full Detroit show round-up

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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