The ND2 Miata Autocross Experience: John Hunter

By John Hunter – after his experience running the ND2 at the 2018 Solo Nationals

I cannot lie. When I received the call asking if I would be interested in doing some exhibition runs in the new 2019 Mazda MX-5 at the SCCA Tire Rack Solo Nationals with Ron Bauer, Deana Kelley, and Tara Johns, I was both really excited, and yet slightly dreading the opportunity. With Mazda’s announcement that the new car would have 26 more horsepower, rev to 7500 RPM (up 700 RPM from the previous car), as well as add features such as the new telescoping steering wheel, amongst others, how could I not be excited about the new car?!  I knew it was going to be the business.  Which is why I also dreaded driving it. Because I knew I was going to want it.  I was going to want it very much.  I wasn’t wrong.

So, lets get right to it, and answer the big question. How was the power?  In a word, wonderful.  When you initially hit the gas in the ’19, you would be hard pressed to notice any difference between it and the current car. Which definitely isn’t a bad thing, as the ND has always had a stout low end and strong mid-range for a 4 cylinder. But where the current version of the car starts to taper off around 6000 RPMs, the new one just keeps pulling and pulling, all the way to its glorious new 7500 RPM redline. Deana Kelley said of the new motor, “I was excited by how hard it pulled all the way to it’s new, higher redline.  While obviously being stronger overall, it feels like the NC motor in that it loves to be spun out.”  And that new, higher redline proved enough to keep us from even tickling the rev limiter, even in STR trim. Which means the days of constantly shifting into 3rd on larger, National style courses in C Street, should be all but eliminated.

But while the power is the big talking point of the new car, I don’t think anyone should overlook some of the other new features. Specifically, the new telescoping wheel.  Having had a chance to run the car on the test course in the rain, I can say from personal experience that being able to adjust the steering wheel fore and aft really helped me finally find a seating position that didn’t pin my helmet to the roof when the top was up. And I heard from several taller drivers, this helped them finally get comfortable in the car, as well.  And speaking of comfortable, the optional Recaros were also a huge hit with all who took the opportunity to try the new car on for size. I know I found them to be sublime. The fact that they were heated, was also a nice touch, when the weather turned chilly on Friday.

When the ND came out in 2016, it was love at first drive for me.  The chassis was brilliantly capable. Nimble yet composed. Light on its feet.  It was everything a Miata was supposed to be. And now, with it’s new, more powerful and playful motor, the 2019 Mazda MX-5 should cement itself as, without a doubt, the best Miata ever made.  And one of the truly great sports cars, as well.