From racers to mechanics to race workers, there are many people in motorsports who embody the Spirit of Mazda. Mazda Motorsports seeks to recognize those who go above and beyond in their quest to be the best they can be.
The Spirit of Mazda has seven basic principles. They are:
- Integrity – We keep acting with integrity toward our customers, society and our own work.
- Basics/Flawless Execution – We devote ourselves to the basics, and make steady efforts in a step-by-step fashion.
- Continuous Kaizen – We continue to improve with wisdom and ingenuity.
- Challenger Spirit – We set a high goal, and keep challenging to achieve it.
- Self Initiative – We think and act with “self initiative.”
- Tomoiku – We learn and teach each other for our mutual growth and success.
- One Mazda – We think and act with the view of “Global” and “One Mazda.”
The nominees for the August Spirit of Mazda award are:
Ron Cortez, who passed away in January, was the owner of AIM Tire and founder of the Teen Mazda Challenge for Spec Miata racers under 20. The Teen Mazda Challenge was a regional series that NASA has expanded into a national program. Each regional TMC champion becomes eligible for the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout, and NASA has created the Toyo Tires Ron Cortez Memorial Award for the top three drivers in each region to compete in the NASA Championships.
Along with Shannon McMasters, David delGenio was largely responsible for the creation of Spec Miata. DelGenio had been building Showroom Stock Miatas, but as some of those cars aged out, there wasn’t much to do with them. Along with McMasters and Mazda Motorsports’ Steve Sanders, he helped create a ruleset. When delGenio, McMasters and Jim Daniels came together to make sure as many Spec Miatas as possible got to the American Road Race of Champions, it helped prove the concept and the class took off.
Lisa Garfield is an avid autocrosser, and has a Formula 125 championship to her name. But it’s really being the backbone of an autocrossing family that puts her on this list. Husband Brian and sons Julian and Carson have been staples at the SCCA Solo National Championships, with Julian winning a 2016 championship in C Street in a Miata and earning a Solo Advancement Scholarship from Mazda to compete in Spec Miata in 2017. Lisa currently campaigns an ND Miata in C Street.
Mike Haag is the owner of Haag Performance and has been involved in racing with Mazda for more than four decades. In that time he’s been involved with just about every production-based class in which Mazdas race, including GT, Production, IT, Pro 7 and, of course, Spec Miata. In that time he’s become well known for his rotary engine prowess.
If there’s a racer more associated with Mazda throughout his career than Tom Long, we’re not sure who that might be. From Spec Miata to racing in the GT category in Grand-Am to racing Mazdas Prototype in IMSA to developing the current Global MX-5 Cup car, he’s done it all. In a couple of weeks, you’ll find him offering coaching assistance to racers at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
Shannon McMasters was messing around with Spec RX-7, but at the time those cars were getting a bit long in the tooth and Miatas were becoming cheap and plentiful. Thus, with David delGenio, he founded Spec Miata. He stuck around that idea, and the team he founded, MER, went on to win three MX-5 Cup team championships.
They say that behind every good man is a great woman, and the woman behind racer and Spirit of Mazda award winner Luis Rivera is his wife Bonnie. She’s not only his chief supporter, she’s also his spotter.
Some winners of the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout have gone on to have pretty fine careers, but few have had as amazing a start in the pro ranks as Selin Rollan. While he missed out on the SCCA National Championship in Spec Miata last year, he won the Shootout, won his second race in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, and nearly won the championship. He ended up third in the points and Rookie of the Year. Oh yeah, he also sells Mazdas for a living at Classic Mazda in Orlando, Florida.
If it’s motorsports related, chances are Tony Rivera has done it. The son of Luis Rivera, the pair of them owned a shop in Denver that specialized in Mazdas, and Tony had his own rotary engine shop, TR Rotorsports. Rivera was SCCA Enterprises’ technical director, has autocrossed and club raced, raced an RX-8 in IMSA’s Koni Challenge, and been a winner in several classes of Pirelli World Challenge.
Mark Weber is often the busiest guy at the racetrack, both as a racer – often in two different classes – and being the photographer. At the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, he’s not only the SCCA’s photographer, but he’s racing in E Production and F Production in the same Miata. Weber gets to a lot of races in the Southeast and Midwest, so keep an eye out for his red and yellow Miata.