Penske Racing Shocks will be the new supplier of shocks for Spec Miata, giving competitors a proper racing shock and the benefits that come with it. For a detailed outline of the process, click here.
When Spec Miata was introduced nearly 20 years ago, there were but a few who realized what it would become. What started out as a cheap, simple spec class for regional racing has evolved into one of the most popular classes in SCCA and NASA club racing. It spawned a professional series and has vaulted many drivers to the professional ranks. And on top of it all, nationally competitive Spec Miatas regularly sell in the $20-30,000 range – a far cry from its humble beginnings.
When introduced, the Bilstein shock chosen for the class was the right shock at the right time. Mass-produced, readily available and inexpensive, it was a good idea for a regional racing class where everybody had to use the same shock. But much in shock technology has advanced over the past two decades. As Spec Miatas have gotten faster and the tires have improved, the shortcomings of a street shock on a race car were becoming clear. Further, and perhaps much more critically, officials from both of the major SM sanctioning bodies were hearing of shortages, with shock availability being limited for extended periods of time. It was time for a change.
“The shock absorber was the sore thumb sticking out on the Spec Miata,” says Randy Pobst, the first person to win a national championship in a Miata in 1992 and one of the test drivers for the replacement shock test. “It was the one thing needed on the car. It’s not that the Bilsteins were a bad shock, but they are a street shock, which made them far too soft for racing. I have always felt that the car was under-damped – it needed more control and it caused the car to bang down on the bump stops and snap oversteer or suddenly understeer.”
Mazda Motorsports, with SCCA and NASA on board, put out a Request for Proposal, and the shock manufacturers answered. With several wanting a shot at providing the Spec Miata shock, a four-day test was arranged at Carolina Motorsports Park to sample shocks form seven different manufacturers. Long Road Racing provided the logistics and management, Panic Motorsports provided the cars and support, and Pobst, Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup champion John Dean II and Mazda factory driver Joel Miller provided the test driving and feedback. With Mazda Motorsports, SCCA and NASA tech officials and many others on hand, Penske Racing shocks was eventually chosen as the replacement shock supplier for Spec Miata, beginning in 2019.