There are many reasons to race in the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires. We asked the always enthusiastic Sarah Montgomery to tell us her story. When not racing, Montgomery is a marketing student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is also a philanthropist, and an accomplished clarinetist and singer.
WHY I RACE IN THE BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP
By Sarah Montgomery #14 – Spirit of Mazda, Challenger Spirit, Award Winner
The dream of racing started for me when I was 10 years old, but it was a meeting with Mazda Motorsports Director, John Doonan that put a real path to that dream.
I had been racing dirt oval karts for a few years when my dad and I got to tag along with my uncle Bill Riley to a prototype race at Miller Motorsports Park. Throughout the weekend, Uncle Bill’s main goal was to introduce me to John, but it was a busy weekend for both of them and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. I would love to say my main goal for the weekend was to meet people that could further my racing future, but when I found out Patrick Dempsey was there, my sights slightly shifted.
Even though he was in between meetings and very busy, we finally had the chance to meet with John, and he enthusiastically explained the Mazda ladder system to me. I was mesmerized. Looking back on it now, one has to wonder how many kids John Doonan has made an impression on. I had hopes and dreams before, but my path started that weekend.
The 2015 season was my first time competing at a ‘professional’ level, and it exceeded any of my expectations. Before the season started, I participated in many test weekends at Motorsports Park in Houston, TX, with ALARA Racing. They helped me learn and understand the differences between the Spec Miata I had previously raced, and the MX-5 Cup car. Along with learning about the car, for the first time in my life I had the opportunity to be coached one-on-one with Justin Piscitell. He worked hard changing the bad habits I had developed through years of no coaching and helped turn me into an improved driver. I also learned a lot more about the dynamics of the car, how to put the car on the edge, how to earn the micro seconds in turns and to learn the mechanics of setup. Although these tests were not a part of the MX-5 Cup race weekends, these were very important to my success and the learning curve I faced for that race season.
My first race weekend in the MX-5 Cup was Sebring. I was SO nervous! There were so many new faces and competitors, and I’m sure most were wondering if this “new girl” could hack it. This is where I thought back to all of the people that believe in me. I remembered the sacrifices and the time it took to knock on doors to get here. I remembered the workouts before and after school, the sessions on iRacing, the countless hours watching video.
That’s when I remembered I belong here. It didn’t take long to earn the other racers respect, as I most certainly respected them.
I found out quickly these were some of the most competitive, talented, respectful, daring, and above all else, helpful drivers I had ever raced with. They quickly became my racing family. I also learned very quickly that I had a whole other family that wanted me to succeed: The Mazda Motorsports Family. It’s the John Doonans and the Dean Cases of the world that are always trying to help you help yourself. Without their guidance, it would be so much more difficult.
As we went through the season, I became more and more competitive. My times at the beginning of the season were about 3 seconds off, but I finished the season with the third fastest lap time of the entire field at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Not only that, but by the end of the year, I was hanging and racing with the top group of racers. After the final race was over, I was 10th in points overall and was given “The Spirit of Mazda Award.” It has been an incredible year and an intense season of learning.
In 2015, we had over 30 drivers on any given weekend. Racing against these guys is certainly not an easy task. They all want to win, whether they’re in first, or last. Each driver will push you to the absolute limit and every position has to be earned. They make you work for it. I believe the competitiveness in this series is stiffer than any other series. By the end of the year, the top 20 cars in qualifying were separated by only 2 seconds and that’s hard to find anywhere else. I cannot imagine anything in my life that will be more exciting than competing in an MX-5 Cup race.
The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Series Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires has truly been a blessing for me to race in. Besides my family, there are so many supporters such as Mazda, BFGoodrich® Tires, Idemitsu and many others like my sponsors Roy and Karen Johnson, The City of Lafayette, The University of Louisiana, Lemons of Love, Royal Rugby, Safe Racer, Brent Mosing, Bryan Hixon, Ben Cherbonnier, Bill Riley, F.A.S.T. and many others.
These people gave me the chance to race in this series and I am truly excited to start next season in a new car, the 2016 MX-5 Cup Car!
Through a long and winding road, I am now doing something I truly love by racing in the MX-5 Cup Series. Arriving at a race track, watching my car unloaded from the hauler, giving hugs to the racing family I haven’t seen in weeks or sometimes even months, and anticipating the rush of competition are all feelings that are hard to put in to words. I know every racer has aspirations of racing in the highest forms of the sport, but right now, I am getting to live in this moment, and I appreciate and am thankful for every minute of my journey.
Racing with my MX-5 Cup family is so important to me because it involves a lot of people. My family has never truly been able to afford racing, but that afforded me the opportunity to see the great kindness of others, the sacrifice of family, and the spirit I carry every day of the people that believe in me. It is a big deal to know I am never alone in my race car and I am never without the hearts of many who put me there. When I reflect, I remember the thousands of hours and sacrifices my family has put in helping me and the donations of time and money others have given to further my dream. To say the least, it is a humbling opportunity and is always on the forefront of my mind, but here I am, and as I said, I love it so.