Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Development

After computer simulations and more than 6,000 on-track miles, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup car has come a long way during the development phase and is now fully tested and developed.

Mazda provided CAD data, drawings and models to Long Road Racing (LRR) to help develop the MX-5 Cup car’s primary systems: radiators, headers and exhaust systems, roll cages and dampers. When the three pre-production MX-5 road cars arrived at the LRR shop in Statesville, NC in March 2015, the development plan was put into effect.

Mazda Motorsports and LRR captured the MX-5’s measurements via a kinematics and compliance (K&C) machine and multi-post shaker rig. The K&C machine tested (pre-cage) chassis rigidity, suspension geometry, and other characteristics (static data), while the multi-post shaker rig tested many of the same characteristics, but under load (dynamic base line data).

Using the engineering data, we identified the optimum placement for the cage’s attachment points to enhance both chassis rigidity and structural strength for ultimate driver safety. A front strut tower brace was added to further improve that structural rigidity for the rigors of racing. For the design criteria, stringent FIA, SCCA and NASA roll cage requirements were all met or exceeded during the design phase.  Additional criteria included room for a 6’4” driver and symmetry for both left- and right-hand drive cars as a global series requirement.  As for the cage material, all bars are laser cut with identification labels etched into each bar, providing a very strong and consistent end-product for all competitors.

The focus then turned to the engine, transmission and differential. Keeping these components at proper temperatures are critical for racing application.  Working with world class suppliers, we developed cooling systems for the engine that includes an oil cooler and a large racing spec radiator—all designed to withstand drafting, in particular, lap after lap.  To manage the transmission and differential temperatures in racing conditions, we used separate pumps and coolers controlled by the AiM MXL2 data system.

Working with one of the leaders in header and exhaust technology, we developed a long tube stainless steel header and exhaust system, optimizing the torque curve and power output of the SKYACTIV engine for racing application. As an ancillary benefit that racers and race fans can appreciate, this header and exhaust system also makes the most wonderful sounds.

To develop the suspension system—springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and bushings—for racing, we partnered with iRacing for simulation testing; we have partnered with several spring and damper manufacturers, with iRacing; and have logged more than 6,000 on-track miles of testing. We sourced dampers from several manufacturers, modeled their products, simulating in the virtual world to help identify the best possible damper curves, spring rates, and more. We took these different setups to the track where Mazda factory drivers Andrew Carbonell and Tom Long (lead tester) were able to continue honing in on the ideal package.

To supplement this on-track testing, Mazda and LRR provided iRacing with the proprietary MX-5 road car and racing component data to integrate into its simulator. Tom Long was then able to test the “MX-5 Cup car” and a multitude of setup combinations to efficiently identify the best packages.

During this development phase, we traveled to several of the top race tracks in the country where some of the best Miata racing occurs (e.g., Road America, MSR Houston, Autobahn, Atlanta Motorsports Park). We handpicked between 10 and 25 top-notch racing competitors at each venue to test and provide us with feedback. By implementing the feedback from these competitors, we have been able to complete the tuning of the 2016 MX-5 Cup car’s suspension system.  We are now ready to deliver a fully developed race car for our customers.

Related Content:
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Driver Safety
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Braking
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Race Car Production
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Parity
2016 MX-5 Cup: Primed for Teams and Individuals
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: How it Drives
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: What Racers are Saying