2020 SCCA Runoffs at Road America

Michael Borden: Going Spec MX-5 Racing

I have been asked, “Why are you converting your championship winning NC MX-5 Touring 4 race car to run in the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series?” For me, it’s an easy decision.

When I decided to go racing, Spec Miata was an easy choice. Spec racing provides a class that the cars can be very close to each other in performance which makes for great racing and emphasizes driver skill, making me a better driver. The Spec Miata gives a driver a lot of performance for the cost and reliability to make the class fun. Add in the support Mazda gives to grassroots racers with the best contingency awards program from a manufacturer and the best parts pricing for racers, and the choice is clear.

I wanted to learn how to drive a momentum car fast, so I decided to buy a Miata to daily drive, autocross, and take to track-day events while I saved to go wheel-to-wheel racing. After test driving the first two generations, I bought an NC MX-5 with a retractable hardtop, thinking of the Wisconsin winters. Over the next few years, I fell in love with the NC chassis. It is very balanced and gives the driver lots of feedback, making the car eager to please. The durability is tough to beat. While I loved racing Spec Miata with Advanced Autosports for a couple of years, I still found myself coming back to the NC.

With the announcement that the Runoffs would be held at Road America in 2020, I decided to build my own race car.  Around the same time, there was talk of the SCCA having a Spec MX-5 class based on the current Touring 4 car. Combining my favorite type of racing with my favorite chassis, it seemed like the class for me. After it was decided that the Spec MX-5 car would run in the STL class until more cars were built, I instead chose Touring 4 since my main goal was to win the Runoffs at my home track. I knew I could easily upgrade the car to Spec MX-5 down the road.

After an undefeated 2020 season, I accomplished my goal of winning the Runoffs.

But I missed the close competition of spec racing, with tight racing for an entire race in a large pack of cars. Now I feel it is time for a new challenge, and I’m converting my championship-winning car to run with the Northern Conference in the Spec MX-5 Series. The conversion will require a Roush cylinder head, Mahle pistons, Penske shocks, Rays wheels, radiator, a few small things like an ECU flash, and that’s it. The fields are getting larger every year, and I think the trend will continue as more drivers discover the NC. With 22 regular season Marquee events across the country in 2021 plus the championship at Road Atlanta, there’s no shortage of places to drive. Contingency awards from Mazda, Toyo Tires, and PAGID Racing offer incentives and keep costs down.

The Spec MX-5 race cars give drivers a lot of performance compared to the cost to build. The extra power over a Spec Miata (a 2.0-liter engine and ~170 horsepower) makes the car more enjoyable to drive, especially at tracks like Road America. I’m getting the best of both worlds with power closer to an MX-5 Cup Car and pricing closer to Spec Miata. My next goal is to race the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires, and Spec MX-5 serves as a great next step.

Photo Credit: Rick Corwine