More Seat Time

Touring 4 racer Derrick Ambrose develops race craft through Spec Miata

Race craft is key to winning, and to develop race craft, there’s no replacement for seat time in real racing situations. But for racer and CorkSport Performance co-owner Derrick Ambrose, opportunities to develop that race craft were limited with his Touring 4 SCCA race car.

“Close competition out in the northwest is scarce in T4,” admits Ambrose, “but there are always plenty of Spec Miatas to race against up here.” Consequently, he purchased a 1.6L Spec Miata, “To be a better driver and improve my race craft,” he says.

“The 1.6L Spec Miatas are plentiful, cheap and require more driving skill to be fast,” he explains, noting that in the Portland, Ore., area where he resides, finding a used 1.8L Spec Miata for sale is rare, with ’99s being downright scarce. 

The 1.6L Spec Miata he purchased had been sitting for five years, so while many of the necessary race car parts were already installed, everything needed work. “The hardest part was installing the drop floor to get more headroom in the car,” Ambrose explains. “Also, Miatas of this vintage have their share of bumps and bruises, which made getting the metal to line up a little bit tough. The rest of the drivetrain was easy as I am really familiar with the motors from my days RallyCrossing a 323 GTX, and [I have] plenty of friends with 1.6L Miatas.”

While Ambrose has now spent several years behind the wheel of his T4 Mazda3, the jump to Spec Miata went pleasantly well. “Surprisingly, the Spec Miata is pretty easy to drive,” he says. “The biggest difference I noticed is the electric power steering in the Mazda3  – getting into the SM from the Mazda3, you can feel it in your arms afterwards.”

Ambrose plans to race his 1.6L Spec Miata with SCCA and SVRA at Portland International Raceway this year – a track where his Spec Miata and T4 car turn surprisingly similar lap times – “They just get there in different ways,” he says. Over the winter, his Spec Miata will return to the garage for more work with the help of race shop Haag Performance. “This winter I will work on the entire setup,” Ambrose says. “I am working with several new partners to get the car ready for the 2018 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Sonoma.”