Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship To Be Settled This Weekend

Once again, a Mazda-powered series is handing out a significant prize to boost a pro racing career – further cementing their legacy as a make that cares about racers.

This weekend, a $100,000 prize is on the line for the Spec MX-5 Challenge, going to the championship winner at the American Road Race of Champions at Road Atlanta.

The regular season rounds from both the East Series (run predominantly with SCCA) and the Central Series (run with NASA) counted for one third of the championship, with each of the doubleheader races making up an additional one third of the final tally.

The series is an arrive and drive, fully prepped. For $45,000, drivers have spent the season with a brand new set of Yokohama Tires each weekend, Pagid brake pads, fuel, maintenance and prep on the NC generation Mazda MX-5 from top-level shops Atlanta Speedwerks and Winding Road Racing. Prize money, contingency offerings and more augment the regular season in the buildup to the grand prize.

The “Control Their Own Destiny” group:

Four drivers can win this championship, just by taking care of business. Jason Connole and Tom Martin enter the doubleheader weekend with 20 points each, thanks to regular season wins in the East and Central, respectively. Peter Ensor and Noah Grey each enter the weekend with 19 points – so a pair of wins there will, by default, move them into the Championship’s top prize.

Connole scored three wins in the opening four rounds, all at his home track at VIR, and then held on through some tough finishes to claim the East title. At Road Atlanta, bad luck in qualifying cost him some grid positions, but still he managed a fourth and a third during that weekend. With a better qualifying run? He’s certainly in the mix.

Martin dominated his season-long foes, especially during the early rounds of the season. With six wins in ten races, Martin is clearly the top Central competitor – even with others coming on strong at the end of the season. Martin had a third and a fourth overall when the two sides came to Road Atlanta in July, so he’s certainly right there for top honors.

Ensor’s 19 points to enter the weekend comes via a tiebreaker, as he scored the same amount of regular season points as Connole. And, at least on paper, he’s ready to strike. Ensor took a win and a second at Road Atlanta in July, and has recently picked up even more momentum after crossing the finish line sixth in the NASA Championship Spec Miata race, an impressive accomplishment to say the least, and claiming the Teen Mazda Challenge title.

Noah Grey finished seventh and sixth on back to back days in July, but his season took off in a big way just after that. The 18-year-old, still making the big transition from karts to cars, followed that up with a Central Series win at NOLA, then finished with three consecutive third-place finishes to capture the 19 points from the Central.

The “Definitely Contenders With Strong Finishes” group:

The next group of competitors are certainly capable of claiming the top prize. Manny Martinez and Nick Bruni, entering the Championship out of the East with 18 and 17 points, respectively, have shown speed all year – but have both come into their own in the second half.

Martinez had a first or a second-place finish in every race weekend except for the first appearance at Road Atlanta – but that was his first time at the track, and there’s potential for improvement in the Championship. Bruni’s season turned at Road Atlanta, where he matched Ensor in the combined event with a win and a second. That is certainly enough to put him into the mix, if he can repeat that performance.

Matt Million and Harry Voigt get the 18 and 17 points from the Central, and both have improved late in the year since the inaugural Road Atlanta round. Million took a win at NOLA, Voigt grabbed his first at COTA, and the two teenagers have enough raw talent to breakthrough in the Championship round.

The “Need Some Help” Group:

The final group competing for the Championship prize has some ground to makeup. John Allen leads this group, entering with 16 points and two podium finishes on his mantle. Allen has flashed speed and brings a top-level iRacing background to the track with him, but has little seat time comparatively to some others. Still, Allen’s maiden victory seems to be just around the corner, and if it comes this weekend, all bets are off.

Longer shots for the championship, but improving weekly, are Tyler Harrell, Assen Rachev and Jose Garcia. Like Allen, the three are relatively inexperienced compared to those at the top of the standings. But each has shown noticeable improvement throughout the season and are in position to, if not contend, disrupt the Championship with season-best finishes. Each have worked hard outside of the Spec MX-5 Challenge for seat time, and it has shown as the season has progressed.

Follow Along:

Live timing will be available on the Race Monitor app throughout the weekend for the Atlanta Region SCCA’s ARRC. The Spec MX-5 Challenge will qualify on Friday at approximately 12:55 p.m. ET, then race for 13 laps on Saturday at 10:20 a.m. and Sunday at 9:20 a.m.

While the 2018 season is about to wrap, applications are now being taken to run the 2019 season. Visit www.SpecMX-5.com for details on the application process.