Parts Spotlight: Spec MX-5 Engine – To Seal or Not to Seal

There may not be a more debated topic in racing than parity in the equipment. Parity means everyone has an equal opportunity to compete, without parts made of “unobtanium” that are only available to a few based on who can spend more money.

When investing considerable time and money to enjoy the thrill of motorsports competition, especially at a grassroots level, nothing turns a team and racer off quicker than an unfair rule set.

At first glance, “parity” sounds simple. When creating a new racing program such as Spec MX-5, Mazda Motorsports’ number one requirement was to build a parts and rules package that allows for even competition, while making it clear to technical inspectors which racers or teams have made changes to these rules to gain an unfair advantage.

And throughout the motorsports’ world, there are a number of strategies to make the racing fair, from providing identical specs to every car to balance of power. The Mazda Motorsports team tried to learn from all of these.

Some say, “seal everything. Seal the motor, the transmission, the diff and more.” That can be a very effective way to ensure fairness. Then, ensure it gets teched. The Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires took this overall approach, and it has worked very well, producing, arguably, the closest competition in road racing. The question Mazda asked itself, “Does this approach also work best at a grassroots level? Let’s not assume; let’s discuss.”

The first step was to set the objectives of the Spec MX-5 program first, according to Mazda Motorsports’ business development manager David Cook. That began with building a car that racers want. Josh Smith, the Mazda Motorsports Technical Specialist, outlined the four key pillars that guided that discussion: affordability, reliability, tech-ability, and really fun to drive. (To note: of course, tech-ability is a made-up word, but every racer here knows what it means!)

Big goals, but two deeper objectives can make that happen. The first is to build a rule set the sanctioning bodies, racers and teams can all interpret the same way, without grey areas. The second is to work with industry leading partners such as Roush, Mahle, Penske Racing and Pagid Brakes to help establish the reality of fairness. But it’s not enough to just select those companies and thrust their parts onto the program – it is just as important to be clear in the communication as to why those parts were selected.

So, with that in mind, let’s go back to the sealed vs. spec engine question.

Why not mandate a stock, sealed engine program? The simple answer is the convenience for the racer. With thousands of events the Spec MX-5 car will be eligible across the country, it would be impossible to have a support partner or authorized rebuilder at every event.

Without onsite help, the process becomes: crate up the engine; ship it to a designated Mazda engine rebuilder who is authorized to re-seal it; wait for the rebuild; and have it shipped back to then be installed. It works against the affordability pillar outlined for this program, both in cost and time.

Having said that, some still prefer a sealed engine, and would rather have Mazda put together the engine for their race car. Mazda Motorsports is offering a sealed engine with all of the same components available in the kit, shipped right to your door. That motor could be rebuilt and resealed down the road or, if appropriate, may be unsealed and rebuilt with kit parts and still meet the technical requirements of the Spec MX-5 car.

Whether you choose to buy a sealed engine from Mazda Motorsports, build your own with the Mazda Motorsports parts (see Parts Spotlight: Spec MX-5 Roush Cylinder Head, and Parts Spotlight: Spec MX-5 Mahle Pistons), or send to an engine builder, you’re in good shape regarding all four pillars.

Mazda Motorsports’ Part Number – Turnkey Engine: 0000-01-5015-KT
Mazda Motorsports’ Price: $7,480.00

About Spec MX-5: Mazda Motorsports has combined decades of key learnings supplied by thousands of racers at every level of grassroots and pro racing to create Spec MX-5. We’ve applied these key learnings into four key pillars: affordability, reliability, tech-ability, and really fun to drive. We’ve considered every facet of Spec MX-5 – from the car spec, the suppliers and partners, the rule set, the schedules and tracks, the ease of maintenance and repair, fun and fair competition, prizes and awards, and more. Building on the abundance of already fun third generation NC (2006-2015) MX-5s, Mazda Motorsports has developed a race kit with nearly every necessary part to convert the road car into the Spec MX-5 race car, intended for everyone from novices looking to make a long-term stay in club racing, to those aspiring to ascend the Mazda Road to 24 ladder. The focus of the support program is to enable excellent sprint and endurance club racing competition through transparency, parity, rewarding racers with the best contingency awards in club racing, the best parts pricing, and assistance from Mazda Motorsports’ experts on everything from assembly, to set up, and driving. Spec MX-5 is club racing done right. Parts for the Spec MX-5 kit begin shipping in October, so call Mazda Motorsports at 800.435.2508 now to be first in line!

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