When Mike Kamalian returned to SCCA racing after a 10-year hiatus, a Miata was the perfect choice
Mike Kamalian is a widely experienced racer, with seat time in a variety of classes and experience as a race shop owner, all spread over several decades of involvement. That’s why it’s significant that Mike has gravitated to Mazda racecars for the current and next phases of his racing career.
“I had raced in American Sedan, D Sports Racer, and Improved Touring back in the day,” Kamalian relates. “I had gotten out of driving for 10 years, but then one of my friends suggested that we go racing together. We found a set of IT cars and bought them. I ran mine for a season or two and then I was hooked again.”
SCCA’s Improved Touring classes offer tough racing, but you can’t compete for a SCCA national championship in an IT car. “I needed something more competitive,” Kamalian says. “I was poking around and looking at classes. I wanted a car that would be competitive right out of the box so I could jump in and go have some fun. I wanted low-maintenance, too.”
As fate would have it, the right car turned up in the form of Kent Prather’s multiple championship-winning GT-Lite Miata. The car had previously carried Jesse Prather to three SCCA championships the Production category, and had taken Kent to the top of the podium twice.
“I stumbled across Kent’s car, and everyone I know said I’d be an idiot not to buy the car,” he says. “I didn’t know who Kent Prather or Jesse Prather were at the time.”
Any racer will tell you that buying a championship-winning car is not even remotely enough to be competitive – you have to learn how to drive the new car. “Getting used to the car was a little bit different,” Kamalian admits. “I had to adapt my driving style to the Prathers’ engineering. It was just differences in the setup, really. We did well the first year, finishing third at the  Daytona SCCA Runoffs.”
When you’re running at the front, small changes can have a big effect at the finish line. “I added a rear swaybar to the car,” Kamalian explains. “The car had a tendency to push a little bit because I’m a little bit too aggressive on turn-ins. So we softened up the front bar and put a rear bar on so we could rotate the rear around. The car was too good to really go in and screw with it.”
Kamalian was ready to run for the win at the 2016 Runoffs, but a small thing stymied him. “We finished fourth in Ohio. We really should have won that race, but on the first racing lap the rear-view mirror came loose and I couldn’t see anything behind me. I drove the defensive line through the whole race because I didn’t want to turn down on someone unexpectedly.”
Never one to be kept down, Mike is preparing for the 2017 SCCA Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this September. “No one’s been to Indy, so it’s not like anyone else has an advantage,” he reasons. “I think this Miata is probably the fastest car in GT-Lite right now.”