CUMMING, GA, and AUSTIN, TX, December 19, 2017 — Atlanta Speedwerks and Winding Road Racing today announced the creation of a new road racing series, Spec MX-5 Challenge. In 2018, the series will debut on tracks in the eastern and central portion of the U.S., including Virginia International Raceway, Circuit of The Americas and Road Atlanta.
Spec MX-5 will feature identically prepared NC generation (2006-2015) Mazda MX-5s, that are owned and maintained by both Winding Road Racing and Atlanta Speedwerks. Winding Road Racing will be conducting a 6 weekend/12 race Central series in conjunction with NASA events, while Atlanta Speedwerks will be hosting a 6 weekend/12 race Eastern series in conjunction with SCCA events. 10 drivers will be selected to compete in each series, with the top 7 drivers from each series coming together for the 14 car final event to determine the overall champion.
Central series Spec MX-5 Challenge schedule
March 23-25 NCM NASA
May 4-6 OTA NASA
June 8-10 Hallett NASA
Sept 8-9 NOLA NASA
Sept 13-16 COTA NASA
Nov 2-4 Road Atlanta ARRC
Eastern series Spec MX-5 Challenge schedule
March 10-11 VIR SARRC
May 11-13 VIR SARRC/MARRS
June 16-17 Summit Point SARRC/MARRS
July 28-29 Road Atlanta SARRC
TBD TBD TBD
Nov 2-4 Road Atlanta ARRC
High quality competition is a very important aspect of Spec MX-5 Challenge. To ensure fairness, drivers will be randomly assigned a different car each weekend, with procedures in place to ensure each car is identically prepared. Drivers will only be allowed to use one set of dry tires per weekend; an official tire manufacturer will be announced soon. Drivers will drop their lowest race finish from the points tally to account for any incidents, mechanicals, or missed races.
Mazda is integrating the Spec MX-5 Challenge into their industry-leading pro racing ladder system. “Mazda has done more for road racing in the United States than any other brand, and we are thankful that they have joined us in this venture to create a new series for drivers to showcase their talents and move up the Mazda ladder,” said Todd Lamb, owner of Atlanta Speedwerks.
With assistance from Mazda, the Spec MX-5 series will award the 2018 Spec MX-5 Challenge champion with a $100,000 scholarship toward running the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires series in 2019. In addition, Mazda will pick one at-large nominee from the Spec MX-5 Challenge for the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout. “We are excited to assist Spec MX-5 in creating a bridge for driver talent to move from successful amateur classes like Spec Miata to Global MX-5 Cup and beyond,” said David Cook, business development manager, Mazda Motorsports.
Only available as an arrive-and-drive program, the cost for the season will be $45,000. This price includes Spec MX-5 race car rental, entry fees, transport, prep, trackside support, tires and consumables. “We have observed that costs continue to rise in all forms of racing, so we wanted to find a way to create an affordable arrive-and-drive series,” said Tom Martin, CEO of Winding Road Racing. “Our experience running professional teams has shown us ways to reduce costs for racers and we have incorporated that knowledge into Spec MX-5,” he said.
Mazda, Winding Road, Atlanta Speedwerks and many others in the racing community intend for Spec MX-5 Challenge to grow beyond the 2018 season. The series has plans to expand car count, race shop support and geographical coverage in 2019 and beyond. “Ultimately, we need to be running hundreds of Spec MX-5s to fulfill the vision of creating a new level of road racing,” said Martin. “With support from Mazda and other partners, along with a step-by-step strategy, we are confident that Spec MX-5 Challenge has a bright future.”
We conducted our first event with LevelUp Racing School Dec 18-19 at Atlanta Motorsports Park. The instructors, Steve Debrecht, Keith Watts, Terry Earwood, and Peter Stolz, were exceptional in getting the drivers acclimated and up to speed with their knowledge and experience.
Our new Spec MX-5 cars ran flawlessly. Look for the next school to be announced soon, coming in February to a track in the Southeast.
Winding Road Racing and Atlanta Speedwerks are partnering to create a new 2018 race series built around a new class called Spec MX-5. The objective is to build a race series that has some of the attractive elements of pro racing, like meaningful prize money and top drivers and high-quality tracks. At the same time, WRR and Speedwerks want to keep costs down so that more drivers can compete and more drivers can treat a Spec MX-5 season as a step on a racing career ladder.
There are still a few details to be worked out, but basically Spec MX-5 will operate like this:
To keep competition as balanced and driver-focused as possible, all drivers will run in identically prepared cars owned and operated by Winding Road Racing and Atlanta Speedwerks. The cars are based on the NC (3rd) generation Mazda MX-5, with full cages, fire systems, harnesses and other safety equipment required of any road racing car. The specs for the car limit the number of adjustments to less than a handful, and the WRR/Speedwerks mechanics are being trained on how to prep the cars identically. Drivers will be assigned to a different car each weekend. The series does want drivers to get some experience with providing feedback to the team, so tire pressures will be adjusted for each car/driver pairing.
The Pro Racing Cost Issue
As we discovered in a recent Winding Road reader survey, about 50% of drivers assume that a pro racing season starts in the $40k – $60k range. As of 2017, the reality is that the lowest cost pro road racing series, the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup series presented by BF Goodrich, costs about $100k or probably a little bit more for the season. Pro series rise in cost from there, so that a Pirelli World Challenge TC season costs about $150k, an IMSA GT3 Cup or Trans Am season gets close to $300k and PWC or IMSA series running SRO GT3 cars are well north of $500k.
Obviously, these numbers keep a lot of good, often young, drivers from ever attempting the “pro” game. Mazda in particular has worked hard to create a ladder system that helps these drivers get in the game, but the reality is that, for example, there is only one winner of the Mazda Road To 24 shootout. That lucky driver gets $100k to use toward a follow on season (in Global MX-5 Cup). From there, you have to keep winning to move up. Or get a big sponsorship deal. Very difficult.
Spec MX-5 moves the cost of a pro season down into the anticipated range of $40k-$60k that our survey showed most drivers imagine when they think about pro racing. Spec MX-5 is designed to couple that more accessible entry point with enough prize money that some drivers will be able to move on to the next step on the ladder.
The Driver Development Issue
The other issue with even entry level pro racing is that it is expensive enough that some drivers can’t afford to do it year after year so that they build their skill in the long run. Quite a few drivers can scrape together the funds to do one season (which sometimes ends midway because of optimistic cost estimates). But many of those drivers can’t run MX-5 Cup or PWC year after year. If you don’t peak right away, you may be done.
Spec MX-5 is designed to be inexpensive enough that many more drivers can run Spec MX-5 year after year. With the goal of attracting top drivers, Spec MX-5 should serve as an excellent driver development platform. Drivers get to compete against a tough field and measure themselves. Drivers get the trackside support needed to free them to work on data and video analysis and receive coaching if desired.
Winding Road Racing and Atlanta Speedwerks have the cars needed to accept 10 drivers for the south central series and 10 drivers for the south eastern series. The teams will bring spare parts and spare cars in an effort to maximize track time.
If you would like to stay in the loop for additional details about Spec MX-5 and/or you think you’d like to apply for one of the open Spec MX-5 seats, please contact Todd Lamb at specmx5@ATLspeedwerks.com.
We just returned from the 2017 SCCA Runoffs at Indy. What a great event!
It was a huge success for our client Tray Ayres, who claimed his first National Championship winning SRF3 in a field of 101 cars! As a team we got to kiss the bricks as part of the celebration. Todd Lamb qualified 4th and finished 8th in SRF3.
Andy Devoto showed everyone on the test days that the 1.6 Spec Miata can still hold its own, putting in the 8th fastest time on Sunday.
Senter Smith had a great showing in his new Speedwerks VVT build, starting 39th and finishing 29th in the 90+ Spec Miata field.
Steve Sturm made the big show in Spec Miata by way of the Last Chance Qualifying race.
Matt Reynolds qualified in 4th and had a good run for the opening laps in SM until contact slowed his progress.
Our Spec Boxster qualified 2nd in T3 with Todd Lamb at the wheel, but unfortunately he and the polesitter were knocked out of the race on the first lap by an over-ambitious driver.
It was great to see many of our racing friends stop by, including Tim Weaver, Jeff VanBendegom, and Tom Brown.
We’ve had a very busy spring and summer, running SCCA races, PCA races, and Global MX-5 Cup events across the US and Canada.
In SCCA, we just returned from the Cat Majors at Road America, where Topher put his Spec Boxster on pole and won the T3 class – his first majors victory. Tray Ayres set the fastest time in SRF3 qualifying but unfortunately had a mechanical issue which ended his race early. Coaching Client Breton Williams finished 2nd in his Prather EP car. At Blackhawk Farms, Jeff Vanbendegom won his first ever SM race after qualifying on pole.
In PCA, we raced at Watkins Glen, with great results by Topher, Todd, and Hunt (pole and a win) in Spec Boxster. Road Atlanta was in April, with Todd and Topher both on the podium in SPB.
In Global MX-5 Cup, we struggled with some ECU issues the first half of the season, but once those were sorted out Todd was able to lead at Road America and finish second. At the Streets of Toronto race Todd led race one, but got caught up in someone else’s error and wound up in the wall with a few fractured ribs, ending his run for the championship.
We’ve finally recovered from a fun filled weekend at the Porsche Club Race at Sebring. Our two new Spec Boxster builds were completed in record time. Topher Everett piloted his red #29 to a victory in the fun race – his first PCA race weekend in his new car with an awesome graphics scheme a la Porsche. We copied his livery for our black #84 shop car, with Todd Lamb taking the win in the enduro in our other new build. PCA puts on very fun, laid back events, catered to the customers (drivers). Race with us or stop by our paddock at the upcoming Road Atlanta PCA race April 1-2.
Video from the enduro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-l59J5GKJ8
Topher’s writeup on the weekend: http://www.racinggearreviews.com/blog/2017/2/8/spec-boxster-battle
We had an amazing weekend at Summit Point with Porsche Club. THREE wins with our Spec Boxster and a Worker’s Choice award! Missed the track record by .018 seconds. We delivered Hunt McMahon’s new Spec Boxster and he had a fantastic weekend with multiple podium finishes. Thanks to everyone for a great weekend – especially our crew who worked long hours to get everything done on time!
The Porsche Club Racing weekend at VIR was a huge success. Two race wins and three track records for our Spec Boxster. Topher Everett got the opportunity to pilot the #184 around the track during the enduro, setting some fast laps after taking the lead.
Todd Lamb setting the SPB track record in race 1, on board footage:
In addition, Lamb was coaching a Trans Am driver and helping to setup the TA2 car. Here’s a lap around VIR just a little quicker than the Boxster:
The Mustang Boss 302R of Elgin Racing won the 12 hour Devil in the Dark event at NJMP, with drivers Todd Lamb, David Jacobs, and Greg Obadia.
This is the team’s third overall win in a row at the event, and a record of leading flag to flag.
Congrats to the entire team!
Here’s the press release from the Ford Racing website: