The MX-5 Cup Insider: Changing Gears and Getting Ready for IMSA

I’ve had a very fun and rewarding motorsports career with Mazda Motorsports for over ten years now. During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to not only get to race at the premier level of sports car racing with Mazda’s prototype effort but also to help with the development of several Mazda racing platforms, like the MX-5 Cup car. If you’re an IMSA fan, you’ve probably seen me racing a Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series.

Most recently, my main role with Mazda since the development of the MX-5 Cup car has been to continue working with that series in various roles. I help develop performance and reliability updates to the car, I coach drivers in the series and I even act as an official in race control. Now, I can add contributor to the list! I’ll be providing insight into the MX-5 Cup Series all season long.

This coming season will present a host of new experiences for MX-5 Cup teams. The series has been a part of the IndyCar paddock for many years, and beginning in 2021, they will be sanctioned by IMSA.

This change affects the schedule, giving teams a very short winter break since the 2021 IMSA series kicks off during the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January. Racing at Daytona is a huge opportunity for all of the drivers who haven’t competed there before, and it’s a great chance for these teams to be on the world stage at one of sports car racing’s biggest events. The Rolex 24 at Daytona has always been one of my absolute favorites as a driver. It’s truly a special feeling to be a part of something so historic.

The short off-season means that teams have already started preparing for the new season. Any off-season testing—whether it’s for a new driver, a new car or a team that hasn’t been to Daytona before—is already happening even though the 2020 season just ended in late October.

One of the best things about this series is that because it’s a spec racing series, there is not a lot of parts development required for teams. That means their testing can focus on the finer points of car setup and driver development. We’ve seen a lot of exciting announcements from teams over the past several weeks, and as time draws closer to January, the anticipation for the new season is really building!

If you’re already a fan of the series, I know you’re as excited as I am about this new partnership with IMSA. If you’re an IMSA fan, I look forward to helping you learn more about this great series, and I know you’ll enjoy watching some of the most competitive racing in North America! You can stay up to date with the series at

Tom Long is an accomplished sports car driver with a number of top honors to his name. His storied career with Mazda Motorsports includes his current role in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series as a test driver, coach and race official. You can keep up with Tom on his blog at or on Facebook.