Mazda has kicked off a new one-make racing series starring the MX-5 Miata, beginning what the automaker is calling the “global era” of its long-running program.
The company often likes to boast that on any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on racetracks across the US than any other marque. That statistic is largely due to a plethora of superbly balanced yet affordable sports cars like the MX-5 and RX-7.
In 2000, the overwhelming presence of Miatas in grassroots racing launched the Spec Miata series — cars that were mostly stock except for safety and minor performance modifications. This gave drivers a chance to compete on an even playing field without requiring an astronomical budget in cars that were easy to maintain.
With the launch of the newest Miata, Mazda has taken the program global, offering a built-to-spec MX-5 Cup Car with items like safety cage, racing seat and harness, fire suppression system, and telemetry data steering wheel. The cars are built on the same assembly line as the roadgoing MX-5, allowing Mazda to use data acquired from racing to improve the street-legal version. Furthermore, these cars will be now built to the same spec for races in Japan, North America, and Europe.
The total cost comes to $53,000, which isn’t pocket change, but still a bargain compared to most racing series. According to Mazda, they expected to sell approximately 50 cars in the first year. However, they’ve already received orders for 94. The first 40 competed in their inaugural race this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The top racers will even earn scholarships to help them on the path to a full-time career in racing. It’s not often that an automaker will foster grassroots motorsports at such a hands on level. Video of the races can be seen at Mazda Live on UStream.