Mazda Champion: Brian Karwan

Mixing business with pleasure, Karwan is the 2019 SCCA Solo Street Touring Roadster National Champion in his ND Miata

For three years, Brian Karwan has tried to win Street Touring Roadster title at the SCCA Tire Rack Solo National Championships. In 2018, he competed in a different autocross class, but he returned to STR in 2019 and finally achieved the result he wanted. And as a bonus, he also earned the coveted SCCA Solo Triad Award.

“I’ve been competing in the class for quite a while and have been close many times, but it was not quite enough to win. Winning was like a weight being lifted,” he says. “Deep down, I believed I could do it. But If I never won, I’d still be content because it’s such a fun class and I enjoy the competition in it.”

Karwan used to compete in Street Modified Front-Wheel-Drive, and he parlayed his passion for autocrossing and his work in engineering to start a business making autocross-dedicated parts. His business, Karcepts, was already established when the ND Miata launched at the end of 2015, and he saw an opportunity.

“I offered products for certain cars, like the Civic I drove in Street Mod Front, but those were engine related parts,” he says. “My true passion is suspension tuning; I design swaybars and cater them to autocrossers. When the [ND] Miata came out, it was a brand-new car, and my business was growing where I could finally invest in a chassis. I picked up the first ND I could find at a local dealership and began product development. The Miata was a hot car and everybody was anticipating the new chassis. Racing the car, I just fell in love with it – it just does everything you want.”

Karwan won STR – a class populated by almost all ND Miatas – by less than half a second in a car owned by Jen Fox, whom he thanks for the support and feedback on the setup. Speaking of setup, he’s happy to share his secrets, and four other drivers in the eight places that earned trophies listed Karcepts on the sponsor line. 

“I share my whole setup with anybody who wants it,” he explains. “We have found this car loves a lot of front camber, so I make these camber bushings … we run a little over four degrees of front camber and it really helps the chassis turn. When you add the front camber … we just kept going up and up on front swaybar rate. As you achieved more front grip with the extra camber, you could run more front swaybar to keep the car stable in transitions. With a big front swaybar, you can really attack slaloms, but not limit the car’s rotation in bigger sweepers, which would typically dictate a softer front swaybar.”

Other things he’s found is the ND1 engine really benefits from a four-into-one header to increase torque in the upper rev range, and that the chassis is fastest with some form of rear swaybar to make sure it has the proper amount of rotation on throttle.

Karwan is looking at competing in a different class next year, likely Street Modified with a different car. Regardless, STR will always hold a special place for him, not only for being a class where he won an SCCA national championship title, but also because he has many friends and customers in the class succeeding through the use of his products.