Spec MX-5 Challenge: Year in Review

From Mazda’s perspective

Mazda Motorsports’ spec for the NC (2006-2015) MX-5 was brought to market at the end of 2019, creating what is known as Spec MX-5. Spec MX-5 race cars compete against other makes and models within SCCA, NASA and other sanctioning bodies. But for spec racing, it has only place – the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series. With one year of racing across multiple sanctioning bodies in the mirror, we reflect on 2020 from a qualitative and quantitative view. Tomorrow, we will look into the plans for 2021.


75 Spec MX-5 builds, approximately, in first 12 months of new spec (~50/50 East/West Coasts)
150+ instances of tech (e.g., scales, differential – qualifying & races – more items below)
2 instances, only, of assembly mistake/non-compliance
8 racers competed in Spec MX-5 Challenge Series
12 race shops building/built cars
32 turnkey engines bought
6 marquee regular season Spec MX-5 Challenge Series events
1 Spec MX-5 Challenge Series championship event
$70,000 paid at the championship event ($50,000 scholarship awarded to series champ Justin Piscitell)
$11,860 contingency awards available per 6 marquee regular season race weekends
$250 Toyo Bucks per Spec MX-5 Challenge Series race via random draw
$800+ per race of PAGID pads per Spec MX-5 Challenge Series race (Master’s & Emerging Talent race winners + hard charger)
$1,500 Mazda subsidies per Spec MX-5 Challenge Series race available (for championship event entry)
$110,000-valued scholarship awarded to Spec MX-5 racer Aaron Jeansonne in the MX-5 Cup Shootout
$75,000-valued scholarship awarded to Spec MX-5 racer Savanna Little in the MX-5 Shootout
8 racers won a race or earned pole position (Tyler Quance, Justin Piscitell, Grant West, Wes Mollno, Drake Kemper, Joey Atanasio, Tom Martin, Jr., Aaron Jeansonne)
3 SCCA STL wins by Wes Mollno (and 2 second place finishes out of 5 races)
1 SCCA Regional Conference championship by Richard James
$600 + $150 in points for parts from Mazda per SCCA STL win in Spec MX-5
$750 Toyo Bucks per SCCA STL win in Spec MX-5
$1,000 Toyo Bucks per NASA ST5 win from Toyo Tires (2nd place = $500 Toyo Bucks; 3rd = $250 Toyo Bucks)
$750 points for parts Mazda bonus for winning an ST5 class championship in a Spec MX-5 ($600 for second and $450 for third)
1 point separated the national champion Justin Piscitell (won $50K scholarship) and Tyler Quance (won $10K for 2nd place)
14-18 Spec MX-5 Challenge Series cars competing in events held at Road Atlanta, Road America, Sonoma, COTA and Laguna Seca
3 sanctioning bodies held Spec MX-5 Challenge Series events: SCCA, NASA, SVRA
5 sanctioning bodies held events with Spec MX-5 cars: SCCA, NASA, SVRA, GRIDLIFE, and Lucky Dog (eligible in American Endurance Racing, ChampCar, and World Racing League) 


How was the customer experience? It’s driven, in part, by our four pillars – a fun to drive car, tech/parity, affordability, and reliability. When these four pillars are accomplished, racers are off to a good start in terms of being competitive and having fun. How’d they go?

  • Fun to drive: Most racers need the three pillars below for this to be possible (certainly tech & reliability, and we always feel better when affordable). We reduced the min weight to 2500 lb., which is lighter than the NC MX-5 in SCCA T4 (2650lb), for example. single-adjuster for bump and rebound Penske Racing Shocks (after hours of on-track and shaker rig testing); wider contact patch tire (235/40/17) + 8” forged Ray wheels + tight competition largely due to parity of cars (see tech-ability below).
  • Affordability: Miata Is Always The Answer. And then there is the great pricing from Mazda Motorsports. The consumables were a shining example, particularly:
    • Toyo RR tires – typically one new set consumed per weekend
    • PAGID brake pads – rear pads typically replaced after three-four race weekends, with fronts every other
    • Engine: The Mazda engine is known to be an industry leader for reliability on the racetrack across all models and years
    • General: Those who purchased by Jan 31, 2020 got early-bird pricing. Those who purchase(d) between Feb 1, 2020 and Jan 31, 2021 still get better pricing than “Racer Price.”
  • Reliability: See above + the car specs allow for robust parts such as factory RX-8 upgrades (hubs front & rear, toe links & diff brace). The transmission is permitted some reliability upgrades as well. The robust, stock engine was upgraded with forged pistons from Mahle; to further support the engine, the cooling system was upgrade via a C&R radiator and oil cooler, along with permitting proper ducting for racing conditions.
  • Tech-ability/parity:
    • Process and support: We can spec parts for the car, seal some, write a vehicle technical specifications document with teeth, but if it’s not enforced, then those who follow the rules closely can be at a disadvantage (intent is not always a factor). So, Mazda got involved in tech in 2020. COVID-19 reduced some of the tech inspection by the sanctioning bodies; Mazda bolstered it at select events (at times: swapped & checked ECUs, and hired a qualified third-party to tech, including for the Championship event that paid $70,000 alone… which is expected to be six-figures in 2021).
    • What was checked during tech inspection? Every item, every time, outside of incorrect setting of cam timing that was discovered at one event, was found compliant. All items at the championship event were found compliant. Checked:
      • Cam timing
      • Differential (ratio & LSD)
      • Engine serial number
      • Header
      • Intake ports
      • Knock sensor
      • Spark plugs & coil packs
      • Fuel (via sample)
      • Fuel pressure
      • Spec oil cooler adaptor and cooler
      • Compression
      • Springs
      • Front suspension
      • ECU
      • CAI including sensors
      • Wheel/Tire weights
      • Shock sticker
      • Left axle inspected
      • Engine seals documented
      • Fly wheel, clutch & pressure plate
      • Vehicle weight
      • Transmission
      • And more

And when you add in a professional organization (i.e. Spec MX-5 Challenge, LLC owned and operated by Winding Road Racing’s Tom Martin) lots of the details get covered: epic tracks such as Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, Road America & more; pro hospitality and racer coaching at many events; daily communication, more.