Spec Miatas run compete under the lights during the 2015 SCCA Runoffs.

Spec Miata: Introduction

This week is primarily dedicated to Spec Miata: Why buy and race one; the differences between the different generation Spec Miatas; how to set up yours for the race track, and more. We turned to one of our factory drivers for this series of articles.

For those who are considering buying a race car or just have bought one (a Spec Miata, perhaps), it comes with both excitement and fear: excitement for getting out on track and putting your driving skills to work, and fear of not knowing what to expect on the other side of that pit lane wall. We have all felt these emotions, and nowhere are they more notable than at the race track!

Racing a Spec Miata offers the most fun and competitive racing around. Spec Miatas handle incredibly well, have great brakes, are relatively inexpensive to race and own, and have lots of competitors racing them. Seems like everything you could ask for in a race car! There is no better platform out there to build your race craft and learn how to roll momentum through corners.

Andrew CarbonellAnd if you’re wondering who I am: I’m Andrew Carbonell, a Mazda factory driver. Currently, I compete in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, driving the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 in the Street Tuner class. This past season, I finished 2nd the in the championship. I actively race in Spec Miata, and have numerous poles, wins and podiums on the national level. Also, I have been assisting Mazda Motorsports and its partner Long Road Racing develop the fourth generation Miata, the all-new MX-5 Cup race car.

I remember my first time in a Spec Miata. It was 2005 and I wasn’t old enough to have an SCCA license. Dad had just bought this Kermit the Frog-colored 1990 Spec Miata, and he was taking full advantage of being the only one allowed to drive it. At this point, I was the designated crew chief for our Father & Son Carbonell racing team. Besides taking it around the block, loading it onto the trailer and trying to do burnouts back at home, I had no idea how great this nimble car was.

So, there we were at Moroso Motorsports Park (now PBIR). My dad’s friend had rented the track for the day and invited a few of his buddies to bring out their cars. This was it. This was the day I would get to really drive the Spec Miata for the first time. To say I felt “out of place” is an understatement considering the emotions and thoughts running through my mind. This feeling wasn’t because I was about to drive the car on track for the first time; it was because, upon entering the track with our pickup truck and trailer, I couldn’t find a car that was worth less than $150k.

There were Ferrari Challenge cars, Porsche Cup cars, Lamborghinis and everything else you could think of with a hefty price tag. Have you heard the racing joke, “What do a Ferrari and a Miata have in common?” (Answer: “You can’t do $25k of damage to either one!”) For those of you who didn’t catch that: if you crash a Ferrari, you’re almost guaranteed a damage bill that will make you cringe (or your partner cringe). If you crash a Miata, well, you can buy a new one for far less than $25k.

After the morning drivers meeting, all I could think was, “Just run your line and be aware of your surroundings.” I figured these guys were going to blow the doors off of my good friend Kermit and send me home feeling like frog roadkill. Much to my surprise, it ended up being a completely different story! Kermit was a MONSTER in the corners and a savage in the brake zones. Besides the straightaway, there was nowhere on track I couldn’t pass one of these $150k cars. I was in love. Love at first lap.

Ten years later, I still love driving a Spec Miata, so I was asked to write about them to help others consider some of the reasons and benefits. You’ll hear a lot about it being a fun and reliable vehicle, which are primary reasons for why they are raced so much. But this means you get great competition. And if you want to get better, you need competition. So, the goal of these articles is to make sure you love your Spec Miata, too, and get the most out of it at every race. I’ll be sharing tips for buying, prepping, racing and fine-tuning your Spec Miata. Hope you enjoy.