On any given weekend in the U.S. road racing calendar, it’s a near certainty that the most populous model competing at road courses across the country will be various generations of Mazda MX-5 Miatas.
From the very beginning as a Showroom Stock racer, it was popular and it was a winner. When the Spec Miata concept was introduced, the population exploded. Now in its fourth generation, each version of the MX-5 has found its home on the race track as comfortably as the roads.
With the Spec Miata idea having proven so popular for the initial generations of MX-5s, Mazda introduced its own professional series of identically prepared racecars, the MX-5 Cup. Then for the latest iteration of the Miata – internally coded “ND” and introduced for the 2016 model year – Mazda went a step further, building its own racer for worldwide use, the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. It’s a route that many other brands have followed, but the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car, coming in at $58,900, is by far the least expensive manufacturer-built, race-ready car available.
“I think our focus from the beginning has been the value equation for the customer,” says John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports. “The overriding focus was we wanted to bring such an incredible value package to the customer that it just makes sense. That is, value from a reliability and quality standpoint – ‘If I buy this car, it’s pretty clear I’m not going to have to be replacing brake rotors or wheels every session.’ We’re looking at operating costs and the value for the customer in everything we’ve chosen for the package.”
The Global MX-5 Cup car is built by Mazda’s partner Long Road Racing. It takes a Miata, strips it down to the bare chassis, and builds
it up from there with a custom, FIA-approved rollcage suitable for left- or right-hand-drive applications, a new sealed ECU, oil cooler, limited-slip differential, race springs and dampers, and AiM Sports data system, plus all the necessary safety equipment minus only the seat. All the pieces used were chosen after an extensive development period, with much of the testing done by Tom Long, racer of everything from Spec Miatas to the Mazda RT24-P Daytona Prototype international car. The result is a car ready for the track, but one that still retains the feel of the original road car.
“We didn’t take away any attribute the car has in its street car form,” says Long. “I think any enthusiast will find very similar attributes in race trim. We’ve just enhanced every capability, whether you’re talking about the acceleration, the braking or the handling.”
The Global MX-5 Cup car competes in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, as well as its sister championship in Japan, with other series possibly in the works. Yet Mazda has built a car that has the capability to not only race in its own series, but many others as well. The car has been a winner in Pirelli World Challenge TCA and Sports Car Club of America Club Racing and has a class win in the National Auto Sports Association’s grueling 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Many enthusiasts have chosen the Global MX-5 Cup car for track day fun as well.
Wherever it may be a winner, the MX-5 Cup is the venue for which the car was designed, and that series has launched many of its champions into higher levels of racing, including Michael Cooper, Kenton Koch, Stevan McAleer and Eric Foss. That’s thanks in large part to Mazda’s career advancement scholarships, which award the MX-5 Cup champion $200,000 to compete in another racing series. In fact, the Mazda Road to 24 not only offers a path for MX-5 Cup champions to continue racing, it offers a path to get to MX-5 Cup as well. A driver who wins certain club racing championships driving a Mazda or Mazda-powered racecar has the opportunity to earn a shot at winning a full season in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup.
Not only is the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car an incredible bargain – 150 customers, and counting, have already said so – but the opportunities that both it and Mazda present are highly valuable as well.