Z06 & MazdaSpeed3? Do Chevy and Mazda's New Race Cars Preview Hotter Production Models?
This week saw the debut of two different production-based race cars from Mazda and Chevrolet, and while they are both pretty impressive on their own there's a chance they may preview futuure higher performance street versions of the cars they are based on. Let's take a look and see what these cars may be previewing.
Let's start with the Mazda, who just unveiled a race version of its Mazda3 hatchback for the increasingly popular TCR touring car series.
Developed by Mazda Motorsports, the car has naturally been built to spec for TCR competition both in the US and overseas as well.
While the road-going Mazda3 is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5 liter SKYACTIV engine, the race version is powered by a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine making 350 horsepower and connected to a six-speed sequential gearbox.
In case you aren't familiar with TCR machines, they are usually based on compacts and hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Veloster N. And while the Mazda3 has long been an enthusiast favorite thanks to its sharp handling, the current version of the car isn't really considered a hot hatch.
There was a genuine hot hatch version of the Mazda3 in the past however. Both the first and second generations of the car being offered in turbocharged MazdaSpeed versions that offered significant power bumps, more aggressive bodywork and the associated suspension and chassis tweaks, but it hasn't been seen since 2013.
Does the debut of a TCR Mazda3 suggest that a new MazdaSpeed3 or similarly named hot hatch version of the cars is on the horizon? It's hard to say. On one hand Mazda could be perfectly content using the race car to build interest for the existing model with it responsive chassis and peppy but not quite fast powertrain.
On the other hand, a properly powerful harder-edged Mazda3 isn't an absurd idea. Mazda already offers a more powerful turbocharged 2.5 liter SKYACTIV engine in the larger Mazda6 and Mazda CX-5, so it's not unreasonable to think that engine could used in the Mazda3 with a manual gearbox and a limited slip differential.
The 2019 Mazda3 is even offered in AWD, so a potential hot hatch version could even be a genuine Subaru WRX competitor. For now all we can do is hope and speculate on the return of the MazdaSpeed3, but the TCR version of the car will make its race debut in January at Daytona.
Also making its debut at next year's Rolex 24 at Daytona will be the much-anticipated GT race car version of the 2020 C8 Corvette,
which was also unveiled this week alongside the 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible.
Unfortunately Chevy hasn't yet provided any details about the C8R's drivetrain, but it's reasonable to make some connections between the competition and a potential hotter version of the production C8 Corvette.
Unlike the a potential new MazdaSpeed3 which is still just speculation at this point, higher performance versions of C8 are all but officially confirmed with both the Z06 and possibly the ZR1 designations likely to return in the near future.
And while we still don't know exactly what powers the C8R or if its race engine will share anything with upcoming production versions, rumors have suggested a new smaller displacement, more exotic flat plane crank V8 will be the powerplant for the C8 Z06.
And if engine sound is anything to go on, footage of the C8R prototype on the race track certainly suggests an engine different from the familiar overhead valve V8s that have powered the normal Corvettes.
We can suspect, however, that the C8R's more aggressive bodywork and large wing may hint at the exterior design of the C8 Z06 which is assured to be a more extreme, more track-oriented take on the already jaw-dropping C8 Stingray.
It shouldn't be long before we know more about both the C8R and hopefully more about the inevitable C8 Z06 but until then let the rumors fly. In the case of both the race versions of the Corvette and Mazda3 both show that the old adage of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is still alive and well.
Wondering how the C8 Stingray stacks up against the Acura NSX? Be sure to checkout our breakdown of the two cars.