On the first Saturday in September 2019, Akio Toyoda (Morizo) entered a race, only this race was different – he was driving a "Mazda Roadster", or the Mazda MX-5 as it is known in some markets.
This event was covered by Toyota Times last year.
To briefly provide some background, the race at Tsukuba circuit was originally set up as a four-hour long endurance race hosted for and limited in participation to members of the press. One of the rules of the endurance race is that the vehicle is only allowed 90 liters of gasoline. Drivers who press the accelerator too aggressively will find that there will not be enough gasoline left to finish the race. Teams are comprised of 3-5 members, and while they are allowed to have a professional racecar driver, they are limited to one per team.
At the event last year, with the start of Toyota Times as an owned media channel, Morizo and his team were given special permission to participate, and Mazda even went so far as to lend a car to them. Team Morizo, despite not having had much familiarity with the Roadster, was still able to overtake Mazda's "Works" team, for a 2nd place finish.
Because they finished 2nd and beat out the Mazda team, Morizo was unsure about whether or not his team would be invited again for the race in 2020; however, he received an invitation from Mazda again this year (and they even graciously offered to let him borrow another Roadster!).
Unfortunately, Morizo had to make a difficult decision and declined the invitation this year.
To inform of the decision to those participating in and running operations at the Tsukuba circuit, starting with Mazda, Morizo penned a letter. In it, he offered a two-part explanation of the decision. One reason the team was declining participation was because the race was being brought back to its original premise, shortening the time and being strictly limited to just members of the press, as a way to help reduce the number of participants due to the current pandemic. This change meant that the Mazda's "Works" team, the team seen as the rival to the Morizo team, was going to be absent.
Another reason Morizo decline the participation was due to conflicting schedules, as another race at the Fuji International Speedway was also scheduled for the same day. This event was known in particular by all the attendees, but the below letter has been slightly modified by the editors to reflect the understanding that was not clearly stated in the original letter.
[Dear fellow participants of the "Media Roadster 4 Hours Endurance Race" at Tsukuba]
Hello, it’s Morizo from Rookie Racing.
I heard that this year’s race will have a different format, reduced to a 2.5-hour race without refueling.
As such, similar to last year, the race will still require driving that prioritizes fuel efficiency.
When participating a year ago, the Morizo team showed our ability to patiently drive paying attention to fuel-efficiency.
The strategy we employed was successful as, at the very end, we were able to pass Mazda's "Jinba ittai" (unity of horse and rider), or "Works" team to take 2nd place.
Passing the "Jinba ittai" team and jumping to 2nd place will always be a cherished moment for us.
However, this year...
I’m sorry but we will not be participating.
Please allow me to explain -- there are two primary reasons.
First, we heard that our rival from last year, "Jinba ittai", that we were anxious to compete with again will not be present.
The other reason is because given the choice [between two different racing events on the same day and not having a competitor at one of them], I lean towards being able to fully use the accelerator. Therefore, I decided to participate in the race at Fuji International Speedway instead of Tsukuba.
(The Fuji SUPER TEC 24 Hours Race is being held at the Fuji International Speedway on the same day as the "Media Roadster 4 Hours Endurance Race" at Tsukuba.)
The Fuji International Speedway race will have a lot of time, so I go and fully use the accelerator without any reserve.
However, although the basic principle is different (acceleration vs fuel efficiency), similar to the broader idea of racing shared by both events, I will do my best to enjoy the race without forgetting to "drive beautifully."
Today, let’s "drive beautifully" with each other and I’d like to say: "Be a driver!"
Upon receipt of the above letter, the president of Mazda, Akira Marumoto, wrote his own reply to Morizo.
While these two presidents of competing automobile companies would be participating in races, albeit in different locations and circuits, on the same day, their letter exchange is similar to two people exchanging drinks. Two presidents talk about each other like an exchange of pleasantries, each using one’s own company/brand keywords.
[Dear Morizo and the Rookie Racing team that is looking to fully use the accelerator at Fuji International Speedway]
Thank you again for your participation in the Media Roadster 4 Hours Endurance Race last year.
I still remember the loud cheers of everyone at the moment when the Mazda "Works" team was overtaken by the "Rookie Racing" team. (I’m still bitter about that loss!)
I had vowed to get our revenge this year, but then I heard you will instead be joining a 24-hour race.
I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be joining this year’s race, especially because we've been flawlessly maintaining a Roadster just for your Rookie Racing team.
Please be sure to keep your schedule open for the first Saturday of September next year.
Of course, it is clear that both of us really like cars.
Last year’s competition was fierce, but, alas, this year we will split into two circuits, Fuji and Tsukuba.
Even so, let's use this as an opportunity to convey the spirit of "fun to drive" to all people!
Finally, just so you know, Mazda will also be committed to "make ever better cars" so we will not lose to Toyota!
Mazda Motor Corporation
Ultimately, while the two companies will be competing in different events in 2020, given the playful and competitive nature of both company presidents, who knows what will happen in 2021 – we’ll just have to wait and see!