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.
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:
Great weather, great racing, and great results – what more can you ask for from a race weekend?
Ted Cahall blew away his personal best laptime not once, but TWICE during the weekend!
“Another personal best lap of 1:45.07 at Road Atlanta this morning. That is 8/10ths faster than my previous persona best set yesterday morning. Really want to thank East Street Racing, Jim Drago, Todd Lamb, and Brian Zellner for help with the motor, coaching, and car setup.” -Ted Cahall
Trans Am series competitor Tom West brought his TA2 car to Road Atlanta for coaching in preparation for the upcoming Trans Am event. Tom won the GT2 class while spending each session working on developing a new driving style suited to high HP cars.
SRF3 coaching client Tray Ayres continued his winning streak on Saturday, winning in dominating fashion.
Mike Cottrell also returned to the track for his first race of the season.
The next SCCA Majors event will be VIR, where Cahall, Ayres, and Lamb will be competing.
ATLspeedwerks clients had a great weekend at the SCCA Majors in Sebring. In his first Majors and first time at Sebring, Senter Smith (#67) rallied from 52nd to 33rd with an excellent run. Keith May (#5) was poised for a great weekend back in the car after a long hiatus but had to cut the weekend short due to a family emergency. Tray Ayres (SRF3 #7) held pole for both days but retired early from the weekend due to illness. Todd Lamb (#84) finished on the podium both days, racking up the most points on the weekend in Spec Miata and posting the fastest laptime in Sunday’s race.
On Oct 31 & Nov 1 ATLspeedwerks hosted two AiM LearnFast data acquisition seminars. Roger Caddell conducted the seminars, which covered both the practical side of data acquisition, and also advanced techniques (suspension analysis, driver analysis, vehicle health, etc). Attendees worked with real data and the latest AiM software to gain a solid understanding of data analysis.