Spec MX-5 Challenge Evolves

Third-generation Mazda Miata series has opened up to Touring 4 cars and created shootouts that will earn one driver a new race car

The Spec MX-5 Challenge series was created to fill a gap between Spec Miata and the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup. Based on the third generation Mazda Miata, the cars are designed to be equal and nearly as quick as a MX-5 Cup car. In its inaugural year, the series was arrive-and-drive, full-season only, and ultimately awarded $100,000 in conjunction with Mazda Motorsports to champion Peter Ensor. 

For the 2019 season, Mazda has made a number of adjustments. The series added the opportunity for one-off entries from both arrive-and-drive renters and owners of Touring 4-classed SCCA MX-5s. There are also a series of shootouts whereby the winner will be awarded a version 1 Spec MX-5 Challenge car. 

What’s coming for the series, though, is very intriguing. It’s also important for those interested in Mazda’s push to create a new Spec MX-5 class in SCCA and NASA road racing competition, because the Spec MX-5 Challenge series is working closely with Mazda Motorsports to nail down that specification. 

“We have been working with Mazda since November of last year on the rule set, the technologies, and the branding,” said Tom Martin, director of the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series. “The whole thing is a coordinated effort.

“There will be some significant changes technically to the cars. We will have a new motor with more power. What’s great about that is it allows us to run a NASA class very competitively as opposed to being in a class but not having the right power-to-weight ratio to really fit into that class.”

Another thing is the continuation of special prizes and competition, such as this year’s awarding of a race car to one single-event driver.

“We want to continue with spotlight events where we pick a set of tracks, then we’ll show up with our team cars to guarantee that there’s a population of five, eight, or 10 cars from the beginning,” he explains. “Hopefully we can place another five, eight or 10 cars independently from the area and run 15 to 20 cars at these spotlight events. That’s the core idea of an alteration of our series model for 2020.”

Martin was speaking at the series’ second event of 2019 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where it had its first entrant with a Touring 4 car and its first non-full season entrant in the arrive-and-drive program. Martin says that he and David Cook, the manager of business development for Mazda Motorsports, hope the series will attract many of the 100 or so cars that are already built and are eligible for the series. The series also hopes to add to its ranks with its car giveaway, something that has been met with some skepticism, Martin says, because it seems too good to be true.

“People love the idea,” he says. “It’s not that difficult to win [the race car], and getting a race car is great, especially in a new class. Most racers start thinking about running in a new class, but think, ‘OK, I need car….’ So giving an opportunity to rent a car, run one race weekend, potentially win a car, then you have the car you need to run a follow-on season.”

The series’ next race is at Sonoma Raceway on June 14-16, then has races at Road America and Utah Motorsports Campus before its finale at Road Atlanta in November.