Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: How it Drives

We often get asked, “How does the 2016 MX-5 Cup car drive?” So, we turned to our factory driver Andrew Carbonell to explain.

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup car is an incredibly fun and rewarding car to drive that inspires driver confidence around every corner. Mazda has done a great job of bringing back the original sports car feel that millions fell in love with from the first generation chassis known as the “NA.” The NA had a very nimble feel, which made it incredibly enjoyable to drive around the track: it responds to your inputs on demand and does whatever you tell it to, within reason, of course. Now, with the new MX-5 Cup car—the “ND”—I get that same feeling.

Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology has provided us with a lightweight chassis design, a new motor with more usable power due to a larger mid-range and a set of four piston Brembo brakes with incredible stopping power. I can feel these improvements in each segment of the corner. Every brake zone, turn-in point, apex and track out makes me realize just how outstanding this new race car really is. I’ve driven a lot of laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Mazda MX-5s, and the ND’s relationship to the NA chassis can really be felt there. Turn six is a quick kink on the way to the Corkscrew, and you can feel just how nimble the ND chassis is through there; you can come in with lots of speed, flick the car into the corner with a large slip angle, and the improved suspension geometry creates a ton of grip right as the car compresses through the dip at the apex, saving you from going off of the track. In fact, the car created so much grip through here that I never felt like I carried enough speed to find my limit!

The car really does respond to the driver’s inputs with the touch of a finger. Like Randy Pobst has said, ‘Drive this car with your pinkies out.’ The new car has shed weight to the tune of nearly 200 pounds, which is immediately noticeable around the race track. The lighter weight makes turning, braking and changing direction faster and easier. You can really put it anywhere! When you’re setting up a car for a race, you want to achieve that exact feeling. As soon as you drive this new MX-5, you know that you can put it anywhere on the track and make it stick. These characteristics will make the car the perfect tool for any driver to hone his or her racing craft, whatever the skill level. It gives you the confidence to push your limits and drive at a level that may not have previously been achievable.

With all these incredible improvements to the chassis handling and engine, the brake package has not been forgotten. The stopping power that the factory upgraded four piston Brembo package provides is a perfect fit into the car’s ability to get in and out of corners.  Coupled with an improved ABS calibration, the braking performance consistency exceeded my expectations. I look forward to seeing what kind of passing opportunities that braking power will create in wheel-to-wheel racing!

I’m a loyal Mazda racer, so it’s not surprising that I like the car so much; however, I would expect any driver for other brands to like it every bit as much as I do (even though they’d never tell). The car really gives the driver the ultimate SKYACTIV driving experience, embodying unsurpassed handling, braking and power delivery.

Related Content:
Mazda MX-5 Cup Car: Development
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: What Racers are Saying