2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club – Race Organizer Review

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

In which your Race Organizer makes the Miata do a lot of things it wasn’t designed to do.

When I headed to the season-ender Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons at Sears Point aka Sonoma Raceway in December, it was the kind of blustery and chilly weekend that would be ideal for a luxurious dreadnaught with heated everything. Which meant, of course, that I decided to get a tiny car made for top-down summer driving on the Coast Highway and use it for hauling lots of cargo in bad weather.

Using 2016 Miata passenger seat for luggage.

I was able to make the absurdly cramped Alfa 4C work as a Race Organizer vehicle, so the fact that my monstrous, armadillo-and-Edsel-stenciled suitcase wouldn’t fit in the trunk was no big deal. If I’d had a passenger, I could have put the top down and had the bag ride on the passenger’s lap.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata on Nimitz Freeway

I had to go from Oakland to Fremont and San Jose, in order to shoot some Junkyard Treasures photos, and so I headed south on I-880. A traffic jam on the Nimitz Freeway (yes, that Nimitz Freeway), hemmed in by 18-wheelers creeping along at 0.5 mph with a gloomy, drizzly sky overhead… and the top down on my happy little convertible! This wasn’t the stuff you see in the MX-5 brochures, but the car did fine.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata driving in the rain

In fact, the new Miata drives well in the rain, and if it gets loose during over-enthusiastic acceleration you can gather it back with minimal drama. The defroster works well and the top doesn’t leak a drop (and I’d be willing to bet that it still won’t leak a decade from now, based on past Miata tops). The day after my junkyard run, I got up far too early and began the 50-mile drive to the race track.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata at Race Sonoma

Once at the track, many racers (mostly ones who daily-drive Miatas) clustered around the car to admire it. People who don’t know anything about driving on a race track might look down on the Miata as a secretary’s car, with “only” 155 horsepower and an insufficiently angry visage, but a good driver in one of these things is nearly uncatchable on a road course, even by cars with three times the power. So, your cubicle-dwelling, crossover-driving coworkers might sneer at your MX-5, but roll into most race track paddocks and you’ll get respect.

Miscreant Miata drivers with 2016 Miata

One of my duties as a 24 Hours of LeMons official is to impose time-wasting penalties on drivers who do unsafe stuff, and one of my favorite ways to do that is to stage a photo shoot with my review car (when the miscreant is driving a car made by the same manufacturer, which is not so easy with a Hyundai but a walk in the park with a Mazda). We had so many Miatas at the ’15 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza that I was able to get two of them at the same time.

Dave Coleman with his wrecked Eyesore Racing Miata

I had planned on getting some shots of Mazda Vehicle Development Engineer Dave Coleman (who played a major role in designing the 2016 MX-5 in addition to captaining one of the greatest LeMons teams of all time) posing proudly with his creations, but an unfortunate incident involving another Miata crapping out on the track in the worst possible location obliterated the front of the Eyesore Racing Miata. Dave was a bit sore after the hit but still game about posing for this shot.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata at Race Sonoma

I didn’t get much chance to do the things the Miata is best at doing, but it was a good test of the Miata’s versatility that I made it do tasks for which a big four-door sedan (say, one with more than four times the horsepower) would be better-suited. This is a car that will take you on your commute every day year after year, do all the fun stuff that owners of flaky British and Italian sports cars of decades past could do only during the 10 percent of the time their cars would start, and knock off great lap times at the track. I might have to buy one of these things.

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