Mazda racers expected to do well in small-bore classes at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway
A track like Sonoma Raceway, one that’s all turns with few long straights, favors a light, nimble car, and Production category cars fit the bill. And given that light and nimble is often associated with Mazdas, it’s no wonder that Mazda drivers are heavily favored in E Production at the 2018 SCCA National Championship Runoffs on Oct. 16-21.
Ultimately, the race could come down to three top drivers in three different models of Mazda. Matt Reynolds in a second-generation MX-5, Glen McReady in a third-generation MX-5, and Jesse Prather in a first-gen RX-7 are all expected to contend for the win.
Reynolds and McReady had a couple of good battles in June at the U.S. Majors Tour races at Sonoma, splitting wins. McReady has the home track advantage and has been working hard on getting his NC MX-5 into fighting shape. The fact that he took the fight to 2014 and ’16 SCCA national champion Reynolds at Sonoma tells the tale – but Reynolds isn’t going to let McReady take it easily.
Jesse Prather made the Runoffs debut of his RX-7 last year at Indianapolis, driving to a surprise podium finish. He’s made a lot of improvements to his car in the time since, but Sonoma is a tricky mistress, and those that have raced the track recently will certainly benefit from that knowledge. Prather does not have track experience here, but he’s a quick study.
SportsCar magazine predicted those three drivers would fill the podium, with Reynolds’ experience in high-pressure races possibly making all the difference. But there are a number of other Mazda racers who could figure into the mix as well. John Mueller had a strong performance in his first-gen RX-7 at Indy, and the Californian will come to Sonoma prepared. So will another California driver who has figured into past Runoffs races: Aaron Downey. His RX-3 is always fast, and he knows Sonoma.
The clear favorite in F Production isn’t a Mazda racer, but it’s hard to go against an 11-time champ who calls Sonoma home. But if for some reason Joe Huffaker isn’t out front, there are Mazda drivers who will be ready to pounce, and Miata drivers Charlie Campbell and Sam Henry are chief among them.