James Wilson, Road Warrior

James Wilson drives his B-Spec Mazda2 to the racetrack, races it, then drives home.

There was a time when racers drove their cars to the track, pulled out all the stuff that they didn’t need to go fast, raced, packed up the car and drove home.

For B-Spec Mazda2 racer James Wilson, those times are still here.

“Mazda builds such a good car that not only is it a good racecar, it’s a good street car,” he said at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs after having driven the car to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from his home in Kyle, Texas, near Austin. “We designed our roll cage to fit all our gear on the inside, and rather than getting four to six miles per gallon out here hauling a rig, we got 36 over 1800 miles. So our fuel bills are lower and it sounded like a fun story, to come out and do it just like club racing used to be.”

Wilson has driven his Black Armor Carbon Fiber Helmets Mazda2 to races at NOLA Motorsports Park near New Orleans, Hallett Raceway in Oklahoma and to Pirelli World Challenge races at Circuit of the Americas and Houston.

Wilson didn’t eliminate all the comforts of the road car in his build, leaving in some of the things that others might remove to reduce weight, such as air conditioning. His car still has the radio and electric windows. He does admit to longing for cruise control after the drive to California, though.

Wilson has won a few Divisional races in Texas, and finished sixth in B-Spec at the Runoffs. But it was a third-place finish at the Majors race at Eagles Canyon Raceway that he counts among his most memorable.

“I went off a few times so I didn’t win,” he says. “But even after going off and being a full straightaway behind, I was able to catch the leaders and was able to break the track record by two seconds trying to catch them. That was the most exciting race. It was fun to battle back, and the top three were all Mazda2s.”

That bolsters Wilson’s decision to go with the Mazda2 in the first place, one that he reached in a most methodical manner.

“I’m kind of a nerd, so I put a spreadsheet together with the cost to purchase the car outright, the cost of a B-Spec kit, how much horsepower it made, weight, competitiveness, manufacturer product and motorsports support, and Mazda just kept winning all those boxes,” he explains. “It was the cheapest to buy. It was the lightest, least-expensive, best-handling car of the bunch. And I think the most reliable. Nothing’s been out of this car. I did replace a clutch; but as it turns out, the old clutch was completely fine.”

If Wilson’s name seems familiar outside of racing, you might have seen him on the Today Show. Flying back from the Runoffs – he left his car in Northern California for another race – walls inside the plane begin to separate. It was blamed on an air duct, but Wilson believed the plane was depressurizing. The photos he took of the damage quickly went viral and Wilson was featured on the news program to talk about the experience.

In the end, although the flight turned back to San Francisco and Wilson and the other passengers’ trips were delayed by a day, there was no danger. But Wilson was probably thinking that he’d rather be driving his Mazda2 at that moment….

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