Text and photos by Luke Munnell
Everyone loves a good underdog success story, mostly because they’re so rare. We’ve all heard countless tales of underdogs who’ve given bigger and better-funded rivals a run for their money. Sadly, that’s often as far as it goes. Our would-be underdog heroes come so close to victory but recede to the shadows in narrow defeat, with the rest of us left to wonder what could’ve been.
Often, but not always.
Sometimes the underdog does have its day, and it usually comes as the result of innovation, passion, and the will to never give up. In the entire automotive industry, we can’t think of a brand that’s relied on these convictions throughout its history more than Mazda.
From founder Jujiro Matsuda’s humble beginnings as the son of a fisherman, to his business’s narrow survival of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, to Mazda’s rapid growth after their reinvention of the rotary engine, to their extreme underdog win of the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mazda brand has literally risen from the ashes and claimed a place on the world stage.
So it should come as no surprise that their enthusiast following is one of the most diverse and dedicated anywhere. Spanning generational and geographical boundaries (after all, the will to win knows no boundaries), they migrate to sunny Southern California each year for Sevenstock, to honor this rich heritage with some of the most varied and impressive Mazda rotary platforms and rotary-powered vehicles in the world.
Now in its 21st year, Sevenstock returned to Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway, a more fitting venue than some of the (albeit larger) parking-lot gatherings of years past. Not only because there’s a race track, but because there’s lots of room for race cars, show cars, good ol’ fashioned rotary street rods, and a little bit of everything in between.
Even today, amidst Mazda’s global push of its Skyactiv Technology and more “vanilla” marketing strategies (sorry, Mazda!), the brand is still 100-percent down with Sevenstock, and once again had its Mazda Motorsports wing bring a quartet of historic four-rotor race cars out to play.
We love this. Not just because Sevenstock is one of only two events each year where you can see these historic beasts in person, but also because they’re actually driven and they’re friggin’ four-rotor race cars! The sounds alone of these machines brapping to life, then revving to their near-five-digit redlines and falling to idle in an instant, and roaring—no, screaming—around the track will induce tears and goosebumps in any automotive enthusiast with a pulse.
Second to what we’d call the main attraction, something that impressed us hugely was the involvement of DNA Garage. Based in Santa Ana, CA, the “Do Nothing Average” crew certainly lived up to its moniker, having built and brought out some of the craziest rotaries in recent memory. They also sponsored Mazda run groups throughout the day.
It’s worth mentioning that several of the highest-profile cars in attendance came straight from the SEMA show in Las Vegas, with some of their owners rumored to have slept in the car/truck the night before—now that’s dedication!
Others were just too rad/quirky/loved/lived-in for something as polished as SEMA, including rows and rows of old-school classics; you could only catch at a place like Sevenstock.
Old and new, restored and fully built, truck or car (or wagon, or dune buggy), it was all there.
Then there was all the non-Mazda stuff. For how popular Mazda rotary culture is, hosting a profitable enthusiast event at a venue the size of Auto Club Speedway is easier when teaming up with others. This weekend, Mazda enthusiasts shared track time with Speed Ventures, who hosted the V8 Road Racing West series, Nissan Challenge, and open track-day driving.