We build cars for people who love to drive – this is a fundamental underpinning of the Mazda brand. Delivering a rewarding driving experience is core to who we are and what Mazda “fans” expect from the brand.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the race track. The idea of “Jinba Ittai” – being at one with the car – is not only a key component to success on the race track, but something that is highlighted as race drivers talk and think about the car.
Drivers often refer to “feel” when describing how a car performs. This innate understanding of vehicle dynamics – felt through the body of the driver – is where the joy of driving is first manifested.
Driving racing cars at the highest levels of the sport, in some of the most challenging races such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona can never be described as easy or relaxing. But when done properly, in a car that is at one with the driver, then even the toughest races can be joyful for the drivers. Like a perfect golf swing, the very best ones are effortless but reward the player – or driver in our case – with a joy that transcends the act of driving.
The term “effortless” can mean different things depending on the circumstance. After a long day in the office, commuting home on busy highway in a Mazda production car can be a rewarding experience in the sense that the car behaves in an intuitive, supportive way for the driver, allowing a level of relaxation while creating a more enjoyable driving experience. On the race track, however, the term effortless can better describe the deployment of the drivers physical and cognitive energy to more productive endeavors.
Driving a high-powered race car in any circumstance is challenging. Doing so in the rain or at night – we frequently race in both of those conditions and sometimes at the same time – can require a level of concentration that is unimaginable for everyday commuters. Therefore, Mazda goes to great lengths to make sure that Mazda Team Joest drivers can operate as focused as possible in their environment. The cars are built so that the driver never has to take his or her hands from the steering wheel and can perform many tasks simply by pressing buttons on the steering wheel. These inputs include shifting gears, adjusting vehicle dynamics mapping, adjusting engine mapping, activating the radio to speak with the team, controlling pit speed and even getting a drink. Yes, the Mazda RT24-P has a button on the steering wheel to force a refreshing drink, usually water with some electrolytes, into a tube connected to the driver’s helmet. There is a rearview camera, always on, within the driver’s peripheral vision. And, the seats are custom made for the drivers. All of this is to make sure that no unnecessary energy is wasted doing things the car or team can do for the driver, leaving him or her to focus on the main task, driving a fast race car.
Likewise, the same challenge exists for drivers in grassroots racing or other professional series such as Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. However, teams at these levels often do not have access to the many technical resources available in the Prototype race car, and so choosing and racing cars that are inherently easier to drive is an important part of the overall competitive advantage.
At the grassroots level, if a driver is constantly asking a car to do something it inherently does not want to, such as corner efficiently, more of that driver’s physical and cognitive energy is spent coaxing the car to his or her will. The Mazda Miata is a great example of a car that is inherently raceable and allows drivers of all skill levels to concentrate on the fun part of racing, while the car does what it does best.
As Mazda continues to build cars intended for people who love to drive and remains committed to developing systems designed to enhance the driving experience, this will remain a core tenant of what it is to race a Mazda. The joy of driving a Mazda, especially on a race track, is unquestioned and Mazda is committed to make that as effortless as possible.