The e ight brand -new Mazda3s have successfully completed the first hurdle in the “Mazda Route3 – Hiroshima t o Frankfurt Challenger Tour 2013” , namely the Sea of Japan . They are now in Vladivostok , the starting point for the road portion of the trip . Participants for the first overland stage of the convention -defying 15,000km test drive , which begins tomorrow, have also arrived safely in the Russian Far East.

British, Czech, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Slovak men and women are among those who will be behind the wheel during the first of seven overland legs spanning nine time zones and almost half the circumference of the globe. Stage one will cover 1,400km, concluding after three days at a regional centre called Blagoveshchensk. With the route running parallel to and often within view of the Chinese border, the regional culture has quite an East Asian flavour – as will the Mazda Route3 itinerary during this phase.

The new Mazda3 hatchbacks with 120PS SKYACTIV-G 2.0 petrol engines under their bonnets made their journey from the Hofu factory near Hiroshima, Japan to Russia’s largest Pacific port with the help of the Makassar Highway, a 17,000-tonne cargo ship. Since then, the compacts have been an attention magnet for the local populace thanks to their striking “KODO – Soul of Motion” design as well as the fact that their steering wheels are on the left, unlike most of the vehicles in the area.

The driving “teams ”, who are mainly from Europe but also Israel and Australia , will change for each leg of the expedition to give as many media representatives, bloggers and Mazda enthusiasts as possible the oppo rtunity to experience the new Mazda3 under such intense circumstances . The cars are scheduled to turn up in Frankfurt on 7 September just prior to the 2013 International Motor Show (IAA). Their progress and adventures along the way can be followed online a t or via Twitter at #mazdaroute3.

“It will probably come as no surprise that we at Mazda are thoroughly convinced these cars are every bit up to the unconventional challenge they have in front of them starting tomorrow,” says Mazda Motor Europe Vice President Communications Wojciech Halarewicz. “But there is nothing like letting others see for themselves how impressive the new Mazda3 truly is. This tour is going to be a thrilling, authentic Mazda experience.”