But did it have to look this good? Stop tormenting us, Mazda!
What we see here is the Mazda3 TCR, a race-prepared and highly modified version of the Japanese automaker’s now-premium-ish five-door hatch designed and engineered to conform to the TCR Touring Car race regulations and is homologated to compete in any of the 36 TCR-sanctioned championships around the world.
We’ll go through more of what exactly Mazda has done to net themselves a potentially race-winning version of the 3, but we’d first like to take a moment and admire how this car looks. It's as if it was always meant to wear those flared arches, RAYS light alloy wheels, and lowered suspension. It’s the 3’s aesthetic destiny, manifested.
Penned by the Mazda Design America centre in Irvine, California and developed with help from Long Road Racing, the same outfit responsible for the MX-5 Cup, the Mazda3 TCR sports a totally new race suspension, aggressive aero kit, huge rear wing, a stripped out interior with race-focused telemetry and timing gear, and the omission of any and all unnecessary weight.
"TCR represents a great opportunity for us to showcase the new Mazda3 and provide our customers another avenue to race Mazda vehicles. Some of our most important successes in IMSA and SRO TC Americas have been thanks to dedicated customers who chose to race with Mazda, and we hope the next generation of Mazda racers see the same potential in the Mazda3 TCR.” - Masahiro Moro, Chairman and CEO, Mazda North American Operations.
The 3 hatch itself, despite the dramatic visual transformation, remains front-driven. However, it’s powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 260kW that’s mated to a paddle-shift operated 6-speed sequential transmission.
Ever since the third-generation Mazda3 made its debut in 2013, there has always been a sense of latent high performance potential hiding under its sleek, Kodo Soul of Motion sculpted body. Driving it only reinforced the notion of its strong foundations from which to engineer an epic hot hatch.
With the introduction of the current BP-era model, its fairly new successor presents an even more compelling case for the return of Mazda’s MPS tier variants, notably the Mazdaspseed 3 as it was known in North America.
Unfortunately, in the years since the last official hot Mazda3 left us, the Hiroshima-based automaker and its representatives have made multiple public denials that we should expect to ever see its like again, shutting down growing the speculation of any secret project to explore a potential Golf GTI/R rival.
Who knows if there is any substantive internal momentum, particularly within higher management, to actually follow through with a high performance version of the 4th-generation Mazda3, but seeing the 3 TCR in all its glory could very well make any enthusiast or quiet fan of the Japanese brand lust for a properly hot road-going 3, amplifying the already palpable demand for one. Surely Mazda would have known this.
If you wish to see the car in its element, the Mazda3 TCR will be competing in the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, starting with the 4 hour Endurance Challenge as part of the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend starting January 26th.