Mazda has had a long and successful history competing in Pirelli World Challenge, taking home Touring Class A manufacturer’s championships the past two years, and in Touring Car, earning the manufacturer’s championship two of the last three years. To help keep this momentum, Mazda is infusing additional support via the Mazda Team Support Program.
The contingency program was enhanced in 2018 by adding significant prize money for those who finish in the top 6 at the end of the season, in addition to podium-paying contingency along the way. Mazda is offering $25,000 for a TCA championship, with $15,000 for second; $12,500 for third; $10,000 for fourth; $7,500 for fifth; and $5,000 for sixth place overall. For a race win (Mazda took 9/12 race wins in 2017), Mazda pays $2,000; second place pays $1,500; third pays $1,000. After feedback from Mazda racers post Circuit of the Americas (COTA, event 1 for TCA), Mazda added per-race contingency awards of $800 for fourth, $600 for fifth, and $500 for sixth. Now Mazda has announced it will double payments for all six positions for both Lime Rock Park races during the Memorial Day weekend, which Mazda has dominated at in year’s past.
While Mazda contingency can be quite helpful, it’s not the only financial awards; Pirelli World Challenge offers considerable contingency awards, as well. The payout varies based on car count; for reference, last TCA event at VIRginia International Raceway saw 14 entries, which pays the top seven. The winner earned more than $2K from PWC; second place more than $1K; third place more than $750; and fourth place more than $500 per race. It all adds up, especially for those running up front, which has been the focus for Mazda this year.
“Pirelli World Challenge looks for manufacturer input in all areas, including balance of performance (BoP),” states David Cook, business development manager for Mazda Motorsports, and the lead for Mazda in the series. “We can offer the best contingency program, the best parts support, and the best tech support, but it only means something when the BoP is correct. For us, that’s our focus.”
Mazda has brought on two of its factory drivers to support the balance of performance conversations between Mazda and Pirelli World Challenge. Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell are seasoned veterans in multi-class racing.
“Coming off back-to-back championships, I believe most people thought we would start out of the gates strong this year. While the Mazda racers competed hard, the results were not there. We needed some help in BoP,” said Tom Long.
While at COTA, the Mazda team met with the PWC tech team responsible for BoP, with conversations ensuing afterward. After additional due diligence by the PWC team, some positive adjustments were made, but more were needed.
“VIR revealed we didn’t make up enough on the Subaru, VW, and Honda, in particular,” continued Long, “but the conversations since VIR with PWC have been productive. We are feeling a lot better about Lime Rock Park and the rest of the season.”
While more work needs to be done in balance of performance, the introduction of a 17” tire, replacing the 15” that has been run since 2016, should help.
“During the middle of the season last year, we saw a tire change for the Subaru BRZ, which enhanced its race pace, making it a difficult car to beat. Pirelli continues to do a great job building on the value of the tire, which led us to look hard at a change too,” said Cook.
After Long Road Racing, Mazda’s development and build partner for the MX-5 Cup car, tested the new 17” tire, Pirelli World Challenge accepted the change, replacing the 15” tire starting at Lime Rock Park. “When you go from 15” to 17”, there are several variables – rates of acceleration, contact patch and rubber on the tire, so they’ve all been taken into consideration and there will be updated BoP adjustments to the car to support the tire change,” said Long. There is less overall tread on a 15” rather than a 17, so it tends to get worked very harder. “In our testing,” continued Long, “a 17-inch tire lasted longer and should be a better-performing tire over the course of the race.”
“By making the tire change, PWC will keep a careful eye on the balance of performance each session, prepared to make adjustments after any of them,” said Long. “The tire change comes at a great time, as it helps ensure we can get proper BoP for Lime Rock. “It can be a challenge to get BoP right for all cars between events, which makes adjustments during the weekend necessary at times. The tire change affords us the opportunity to work with PWC after each session.”
The larger-sized tire has also given Mazda another opportunity to step up to help the racers who invested in the 15”. “Our racers are going to need 17” wheels,” states Scott Kaluza, manager, Mazda Motorsports. “While some racers have the 17” wheels because they also compete in Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup, we are providing each of these racers with a complimentary set of 17” Rays wheels.”
Cook concluded by stating, “We are all working very hard to make it a good time to be a Mazda racer. We are excited for Lime Rock Park and beyond with Pirelli World Challenge.”
While Mazda is the reigning champions in TCA, it is clear it is not resting on those laurels.
The fifth and sixth rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car A season take place at Lime Rock Park. Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, May 25, with both races running on Saturday (Lime Rock doesn’t allow racing on Sundays due to the proximity of a local church). You can follow the action at www.world-challenge.com.