The Contenders: Production and GT

Mazda racers expected to do well in small-bore classes at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway

A track like Sonoma Raceway, one that’s all turns with few long straights, favors a light, nimble car, and Production category cars fit the bill. And given that light and nimble is often associated with Mazdas, it’s no wonder that Mazda drivers are heavily favored in E Production at the 2018 SCCA National Championship Runoffs on Oct. 16-21.

Ultimately, the race could come down to three top drivers in three different models of Mazda. Matt Reynolds in a second-generation MX-5, Glen McCready in a third-generation MX-5, and Jesse Prather in a first-gen RX-7 are all expected to contend for the win.

Reynolds and McCready had a couple of good battles in June at the U.S. Majors Tour races at Sonoma, splitting wins. McReady has the home track advantage and has been working hard on getting his NC MX-5 into fighting shape. The fact that he took the fight to 2014 and ’16 SCCA national champion Reynolds at Sonoma tells the tale – but Reynolds isn’t going to let McCready take it easily.

Jesse Prather made the Runoffs debut of his RX-7 last year at Indianapolis, driving to a surprise podium finish. He’s made a lot of improvements to his car in the time since, but Sonoma is a tricky mistress, and those that have raced the track recently will certainly benefit from that knowledge. Prather does not have track experience here, but he’s a quick study.

SportsCar magazine predicted those three drivers would fill the podium, with Reynolds’ experience in high-pressure races possibly making all the difference. But there are a number of other Mazda racers who could figure into the mix as well. John Mueller had a strong performance in his first-gen RX-7 at Indy, and the Californian will come to Sonoma prepared. So will another California driver who has figured into past Runoffs races: Aaron Downey. His RX-3 is always fast, and he knows Sonoma.

The clear favorite in F Production isn’t a Mazda racer, but it’s hard to go against an 11-time champ who calls Sonoma home. But if for some reason Joe Huffaker isn’t out front, there are Mazda drivers who will be ready to pounce, and Miata drivers Charlie Campbell and Sam Henry are chief among them.

In GT-3, three-time GT-3 champ Mike Lewis, racing Mike Henderson’s RX-7, may have the best shot at unseating Collin Jackson, who has never lost a Runoffs race. Fellow Californian Taz Harvey, from nearby Danville, will figure in the race as well. 

Harvey is also expected to be a contender in GT-Lite in his Miata, but he and the other Mazda drivers have the same problem that the F Production racers do – Joe Huffaker will be running his FP car in GTL, too. Harvey will be joined by Miata drivers Jonathan Goodale and Larry Svaton in trying to capitalize should Huffaker have a problem.

GT-Lite is the first of the GT/Production races that will features Mazdas, the third race of the weekend on Friday morning at 10:40 a.m. F Production is Saturday afternoon at 3:40 p.m., and E Production and GT-3 are on Sunday, with EP at 9:35 a.m. and GT-3 the penultimate race of the weekend at 3:40 p.m. SCCA plans to livestream all the races.

Find out who the Spec Miata contenders are on Monday, followed later by Formula/Prototype and Touring/Super Touring.