SCCA RallyCross – although not to be confused with the form of RallyCross where four cars compete side by side on a dirt and asphalt course with jumps and such – is hard on a car. Throwing a car sideways through mud, dirt or snow can be tough on a machine. Yet Jayson Woodruff’s Miata not only takes the abuse he puts it through, but a wringing at the hands of several other drivers at any given event as well.
“For our local events, I’ve been able to pull some of my buddies who aren’t RallyCrossers – they’re mostly autocross guys,” Woodruff says. “They don’t have an appropriate RallyCross Car, so I’ll say, ‘Hey, come help me out and I’ll let you drive my car.’ This season we have four people including myself that are regularly driving that car, all competing for a season-long championship. Plus we still get the odd one or two who come out. So it sees lots of miles. Every fifth car on the course is my Mazda.”
And yet, it was still fast, reliable and sturdy enough to help Woodruff to an SCCA RallyCross National Championship in the Stock Rear Wheel Drive class. While a Miata may not seem like the ideal choice for RallyCross, Woodruff says its perfect.
“For the National competition, they split up the classes between all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. The rear-wheel drive categories are the most fun. When you go out and look at the rear-wheel drive cars that are available, the Miata already has a great suspension setup, it’s a light car and it’s nice and balanced. Pretty much everything that makes it a good road car makes it a good dirt car,” says the Boeing electric engineer from Huntington Beach, Calif.
Or a good mud car. This year’s RallyCross National Championships, held in October at Tulsa Raceway Park in Oklahoma, were met with heavy rains the day before the two-day event started. While the weather for the weekend was nice, the course was left rather soggy.
“Saturday morning it was extremely wet,” says Woodruff. “So everybody was slipping and sliding around. They limited us to two runs Saturday morning when they typically give four. It was a little drier in the afternoon. They changed the course and did an additional three runs. After the first wet runs, I had a pretty decent lead over my competition, but they’re pretty fast and I was nervous about them taking away small chunks of time as it got drier and drier.”
Unlike autocross, RallyCross times are cumulative instead of the winner being based on his or her fastest run. It’s not your best run, but your consistent quickness over all of them that matters. So Woodruff’s advantage carried over to the next day.
“Sunday was a beautiful day and they had a nice long course setup. That felt a lot more natural to everybody, being able to kick up some dust and hit some high speeds. I was at the top of second gear and I probably have one of the smallest motors out there,” he says.
Woodruff wasn’t surprised to do well. He also won a RallyCross National Championship in 2007, the first year the event was held. However, the competition has gotten tougher in the six years since that first championship event. But Woodruff has an excellent local series at Glen Helen Raceway Park in which to hone his skills. Of course, much of the credit for the local series is goes to Woodruff – he runs it.
“It’s become the biggest program in the country. We get about 70 or 80 drivers a weekend and do four to five weekends a year. The last three years we’ve about doubled in size. The different weekends add up to a season series. We actually have a little bit of a prize pool. It’s not a lot of cash, but people appreciate it.”
Woodruff even got to take home a little cash from Oklahoma for his win; Mazda offered $750 in contingency money to drivers winning a National Championship in a Mazda.