Arrive and Thrive

Looking to make the leap from weekend warrior to professional racer? The jump may not be as big as you think.

This feature is part of a special series running on about the SCCA Pro Racing Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires as Mazda Motorsports, racers and fans anticipate the 2016 MX-5 and the MX-5 Cup. Keep an eye on for news about the 2016 MX-5 Cup car as it is developed.

It takes big money and a lot of manpower to fund a competitive entry in most professional racing series. The 2015 SCCA Pro Racing Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires, however, tends to buck the system and is one of the best bangs for the buck if you’re looking to take your racing to the next level.

The 2015 MX-5 Cup series is visiting legendary racing venues during its six-weekend, 12-race season, which supports the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, IndyCar, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. All great opportunities for aspiring career races, and great memory makers for the casual competitor who wants to try the series on as it visits their home track.

While it’s still possible for privateer racers to make it in MX-5 Cup, those with the most experience generally wind up on the top step. Going it alone at the professional level can be an uphill battle, but this series has affordable options. Many of the top teams offer season long arrive and drive packages for those wishing to chase the championship and the lucrative Mazdaspeed Ladder bonus, while other teams offer one-off weekend rentals if they have an open car, allowing potential competitors to sample the series as it visits their favorite track.

“Having come from a husband/wife team, grass-roots effort many years ago, there is a lot to be said for going at it alone,” says Ara Malkhassian, owner of 2014 championship winning Alara Racing. “There is certainly a lot of satisfaction and pride in doing your own work. On the other hand, it is very time consuming to perform all the different aspects of preparation at a pro racing event, and there are elements that simply cannot exist in that environment.”

The logistics of a professional racing weekend differ from typical club level weekends, and it can be exhausting for a small team. “The level of preparation on a pro team is completely different,” Malkhassian explains. “We have dedicated resources for car maintenance, chassis setup and engineering, driver coaching and data management, fuel management, tire management, etc. It’s a level of professionalism that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

“Being able to let the driver focus on driving without distractions is a huge plus. That, combined with having several teammates to work with towards improving lines, braking points, comparing setup changes with, etc., all add up to create a complete experience that gives our clients their best opportunity to achieve their racing goals.”

If you already own an MX-5 Cup car, you don’t have to go it alone; some teams offer trackside support programs tailored to fit your needs and budget. Privateer MX-5 Cup competitor Steve Bottom was a one-time regular to the series, but now frequents only select rounds; he has seen the benefits of trackside support first hand with his privately owned MX-5 Cup racecar.

“By paying one of the big teams, I tap into their knowledge base,” says Bottom. “They know how to set up the car. They know what the baseline shock setting and alignment cross weights should be for a particular track. Then, over the weekend, they will be fine-tuning everything, from the amount of gas to camber to ride height. I get the tire engineering support from the BFGoodrich® Tires engineers, and am able to give their tire temps and pressures to the team, and the team adjusts the car accordingly.”

2014 MX-5 Cup season runner up John Dean II said before the beginning of the 2015 season that his Sick Sideways team had one seat open, with a price tag of $83,000. When you look at the demands on your time and resources needed to tow to the events around the country, an MX-5 Cup arrive and drive, season-long program may provide the value you are looking for.

To find MX-5 Cup teams offering rentals or trackside support, visit

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