Winner of 2017 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship is racing in IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge
One of the benefits of winning a championship in a Mazda ladder series such as the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires is the Career Advancement Scholarship that Mazda offers. Patrick Gallagher won that title in 2017, then won the MX-5 Challenge at Laguna Seca that followed the season and paid $75,000 to the winner. The only question left to answer was, what to do with all of that money?
Mazda isn’t currently racing in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Gallagher had already won the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Championship in a previous-generation MX-5, and that car wasn’t really the ideal car for the class anymore. But Multimatic, Mazda’s partner in the RT-24P prototype, provided the answer. Multimatic developed the GT4-spec Ford Mustangs that race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and also in Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class. So, while not a Mazda, the Multimatic tie-in made it a good fit. With co-driver Chad McCumbee, who just happens to be co-owner with Stephan McAleer of the team that Gallagher raced with in MX-5 Cup, Gallagher went to IMSA with sponsorship from ModSpace.
“In talking with [Mazda Motorsports Director] John Doonan, and the link with Multimatic and the Mazda prototype, we decided that going with Multimatic was probably the best opportunity for me and Chad as well,” Gallagher explains. “ModSpace was super excited about it. The Multimatic link between the prototype and the Ford GT4 car is where it all came from. When John presented me with the idea, I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go do it.’ It took a couple of months and John worked really hard to put the deal together and I’m thankful for everyone at Mazda for putting me in a position to keep racing.”
Their season got off to a rocky start at Daytona, but picked up steam as it progressed with a second-place finish at Gallagher’s home track of Mid-Ohio and a win at Watkins Glen International. He and McCumbee are sixth heading into the finale at Road Atlanta in October.
“It’s been up and down,” says Gallagher. “We had a couple of issues where we didn’t finish some races, whether it be mechanical or contact. We had a rough start to the year, but we’ve always had the pace – the ModSpace Mustang has been fast everywhere and I think we’ve qualified in the top five every time. The real highlight was Watkins Glen, where we picked up a win.”
Gallagher started his relationship with Mazda racing Formula Enterprises in SCCA Club Racing. Winning the National Championship Runoffs in 2012, a year he also competed in the USF2000 Championship Series, earned him an invitation to the Shootout, which he won and earned a ride in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. He was Rookie of the Year in 2013 and spent a couple more years in that series before moving to World Challenge and winning the Touring Car championship in 2016. Then he moved back to the Mazda MX-5 Cup where he scored eight wins in his 2017 championship season. But coming from formula cars and a couple of different generations of MX-5s, the Mustang is the biggest, heaviest car he’s driven for a season.
“Everyone says it so it’s almost a cliché in the racing world: When you first get into this deal and you’re developing your skill set, drive Miatas,” he says. “Go race Spec Miata, go race Mazda MX-5 Cup because it will teach you everything you need to know when you get into a bigger car. The principal and baseline of how you do stuff, it’s all the same. So, I feel MX-5 Cup probably prepared me well to make a jump like this. The biggest thing is tire management and just getting used to the power and the weight.”
Gallagher also managed to work in a handful of World Challenge races in the GTS class with PF Racing, which also competes with Mustang GT4s. His best finish was a second at Lime Rock, partnering with Jade Buford in a SprintX race.
Gallagher says he doesn’t know his next move, but he credits Doonan, Multimatic and PF Racing with a good launching point for whatever comes next. “With people like that around me,” Gallagher says, “I think wherever I land will be a good situation.”