It’s going to be an exciting kickoff to the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup season! There are a lot of things that are new for the series this year, like the move to IMSA sanctioning, and with that comes a new double-header season opener: racing at Daytona International Speedway during the iconic Rolex 24 weekend.
Many of the competitors in the series haven’t competed at Daytona before, so our pre-season test there was really insightful for these teams and drivers, and they gained valuable experience on Daytona’s challenging mix of road course elements and high banks.
Those high banks create a totally unique set of circumstances with the draft. Not only will we see the cars achieving new top speeds of over 140mph, but the drafting style also produces a pack-like group that will create nail-biting moments for both the drivers and fans!
We will have some returning champions, including the 2020 series champion Michael Carter and Rookie of the Year winner Jared Thomas. Along with their titles, Michael won $200,000 and Jared won $75,000, and both drivers will be looking for more success this season. Mazda is upping the prize purse this year to $250,000 for the series champion, with further payouts throughout the field totaling over $500,000.
Newcomers to the series will include the 2020 winners of the annual Mazda Shootout. Aaron Jeansonne was the overall winner, and he has proven himself not only in the MX-5 Cup iRacing league this past season, but in the Spec MX-5 series as well. Young talent Chris Nunes also received a scholarship at the Shootout and has experience in Spec Miata. Another finalist from the Shootout who will be joining MX-5 Cup this year is Savanna Little, who is moving up from Spec MX-5. These drivers might be rookies in the MX-5 Cup series, but they already have success in Mazda-powered cars and will be ones to watch.
With close to 30 cars expected to fill the grid at Daytona, it will certainly be an exciting start to the 2021 season!
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 TomLongRacing.com or on Facebook.