Category: Spec MX-5

Spec MX-5 Inaugural Championship Heating Up

Just one more round remains for the East Series in the inaugural Spec MX-5 Challenge before both the Central and East come together at the SCCA ARRC at Road Atlanta, November 1-4, with a $100,000 scholarship on the line for the champion to run the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires in 2019.

Spec MX-5 Challenge is an affordable pro road racing series with a focus on driver development and a top prize of $100,000. In 2018, its ten-race regular season in the East ran at Virginia International Raceway, Summit Point Raceway, Road Atlanta and, soon, Monticello Motor Club; the ten-race Central season ran at NCM Motorsports Park, Circuit of The Americas, Hallett Motor Racing Circuit and NOLA Raceway Park. When the regular season is complete, top competitors from each region will compete at a championship-deciding event at Road Atlanta in November.

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Spec MX-5 Inaugural Championship Heating Up

New Entry Level Road Racing Pro Series Announced

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.

New Entry Level Road Racing Pro Series Announced

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.”

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First LevelUp Racing School is huge success

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.

Teaser: Spec MX-5 Pro Series

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.

The Program

There are still a few details to be worked out, but basically Spec MX-5 will operate like this:

  • Spec MX-5 will run two regional series during 2018, one in the southeastern part of the US, the other in the south central section.
  • Drivers will pay a fee for the season of slightly above $40,000
  • Season fees cover car rental, prep, entry, mechanics, tools, tires, fuel, and consumables
  • Drivers will compete for points and some prize money during the regular season
  • Each region will award a group of its top drivers with a full scholarship to the Spec MX-5 Championship at the end of 2018
  • Drivers in the Championship event will compete for a significant monetary prize that should enable them to take the next step on the pro ladder (i.e. Global MX-5 Cup)

The Philosophy

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.

Available Seats

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.