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Mazda is set on number 7

The re-birth of one of Mazda's popular sports cars, the legendary RX-7, might be just over the horizon. There has been speculation about the revival of the rear-wheel-drive, rotary coupe that ended life in 2002 and was replaced by the RX-8 four-seater.

The RX-8 has been often criticised for being too soft and has failed to fire the passion like the RX-7 did.

Concept cars, including the Nagare, shown at motor shows in Los Angeles and Tokyo, confirmed that Mazda is looking seriously at its future direction with a rear-drive sportster.

Mazda has confirmed the short-term future of the RX-8, but there are indications that the RX-7 will be brought back as early as 2011.

One scenario could be that the RX-8 could finish in a few years, making way for the RX-7, while another suggests that Mazda may want to grow volume of the rotary engine and run the two models side-by-side.

A key to that strategy would be a need for the RX-7 to share an existing platform such as the iconic MX-5 roadster or piggyback off the RX-8 floor pan.

Speaking at the launch of the second-generation Mazda6, Mazda's Ryuichi Umeshita said he believed if an RX-7 was making a comeback it would be around 2011-2012. “If we can have one then that would be the time frame,” he said. “I want the RX-8 to continue but, personally, I hope the RX-7 will come back.”

The RX-7 was made from 1978 to 2002 but was last sold in Australia in 1999. More than 800,000 were sold worldwide.

Australia has a unique place in RX-7 history with a special SP version winning the 12-hour sports car race at Bathurst and Eastern Creek four years running in the early 1990s.