“I haven’t done a standing start before!” I exclaimed in anticipation into my radio, as I lit up the rear tires on my way to my grid box. I yanked up on the parking brake, gently found the biting point of the clutch, and revved the motor to 1,000 RPM too high. As the lights illuminated, I looked in my side view to see if I could see the flagger maniacally waving the green – the way you see on TV. It was exactly how I imagined it would be. I was so caught in the glory of it all that I missed the start, launched a little too hard, and did a burnout down the entire front straight at Silverstone.
It wasn’t the most graceful start to a weekend to say the least. The race that followed resulted in a series of bruising on my right wrist from banging into the door card forgetting I needed to shift with my left hand, some major moments of oversteer, and lots of three-wide passes for position.
The BRSCC MX-5 Championship is nothing short of the same amazing racing we see stateside on all rungs of Mazda’s competition ladder. The drivers are aggressive, opportunistic, calculated, and ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. After the race is over, they’ll help you fix your suspension, find your cell phone, or offer data and hospitality. Ultimately, 5,500 miles away or not – it’s the same experience you’d find at any Spec Miata paddock.
The real differences lie in the car. I bravely thought after a season in an NA SM I could hop right into this car and be competitive. In fact, I was so overconfident that I ran the race with no practice whatsoever.
Almost everything about the car was different: they are significantly lighter (2100 lb with driver), run no hard top, factory parking brake, bolt-in cage, stock clutch, softer suspension, shaved street tires, and obviously inverted controls for an American driver. In addition, the weather being forty degrees cooler than the Southern California sun I’m used to certainly didn’t help.
The resulting experience is a very loose, free-flowing race car that offers a vague path to the limit, to say the least. A driver must be much more merciful with the clutch and shifting, smoother on the throttle, and more coercive with the steering into a high-speed turn like Abbey or Stowe. The chassis prefers to enjoy tea and crumpets leisurely while it takes a set in the corner, compared to the rigid purpose-built Penske racing shock experience.
Every control requires a certain type of forgivable finesse that is only comparable to balancing an egg on a soup spoon. The only variable that was remotely the same as our Spec Miatas was braking. Teams can run any high-performance pad on stock rotors and my team happened to run exactly what I use in my car, which took a little stress out of the equation.
All-in-all, this experience was a reminder of the impeccable capability of the diverse platform that is the MX-5 Miata and two nations’ takes on the closest racing in the world.
If you’d like to hear more Silverstone stories or how you can take advantage of racing internationally, check out the Inside the SCCA podcast I did on the topic here:
Photos by John Elsey. Writing by Austin Varco. www.austinvarco.com