Inside Mazda MX-5 Cup: Side by side

Inside Mazda MX-5 Cup: Side by side

Among the dizzying array of race series that drivers could choose from, few appeal to as wide a spectrum as the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich. Early on the MX-5 Cup tended to attract racers who were looking for a step up from Spec Miata or where drivers would go for extra seat time before moving up to higher horsepower cars.

Now, as the series has matured and grown the scholarship and prize money fund that presently exceeds $1 million per season, the MX-5 Cup is enjoying full fields of drivers who are there simply because it’s the right place to be.

Young drivers aspiring to make a career of racing like Connor Zilisch, Nate Cicero or Thomas Annunziata are certainly competing to take full advantage of the very generous prize money and scholarships the series has to offer. But that’s not all. Winning in MX-5 Cup, they will tell you, is its own form of career-growing currency.

Connor Zilisch currently leads the season standings.

Zilisch is a prime example. He lost the 2022 MX-5 Cup Championship by only a few points. Despite securing the Rookie of the Year award and the accompanying $80,000 scholarship, missing out on winning the title in the last throws of the final race was a definite cause for heartache.

“I was upset immediately after the race to have missed out on winning the championship,” recalls Zilisch. “To even have a chance to win a title of this level is huge. So, yeah, it stung to miss out.”

For every driver like Zilisch and the others chasing MX-5 Cup success to burnish their professional resume, there are many on the other end of the spectrum for whom the MX-5 Cup is the destination.

Take Selin Rollan. Now 28 years old, he began racing in SCCA Spec Miata at age 15. In 2018, he won the MX-5 Cup Rookie of the Year prize and has continued racing in the series ever since, finishing in the top five in points every year, including as runner-up in 2019. He clearly has talent behind the wheel. Although he had aspirations of his own to make a career in racing, Rollan eventually concluded that MX-5 Cup is where he belonged.

Selin Rollan could have gone elsewhere, but he’s been happy to stay and race competitively in MX-5 Cup.

“I love the racing,” says Rollan. “I’m also really fortunate to have a great ‘marriage’ with Hixon Racing and the Austin Hatcher Foundation to keep me in it – along with the success I’ve had — it’s paid me back. So, I hope to stay in MX-5 Cup as long as possible.”

Rollan says he could have had or explored opportunities in other race series, but the decision always came back to MX-5 Cup.

“You’re in the IMSA paddock, you get the livestreams of races, you get the media attention; the value is unmatched,” he adds. “The racing is fantastic — I’m smiling just thinking about it. You have so much mechanical grip, and you don’t have to worry about aero wash or getting too close. It’s flat-out racing for 45 minutes where you don’t have to factor in pit or tire strategies. It’s pure. And when the races are done, you often hear about the WeatherTech drivers who watched the races because they’re such fun.”

What’s clear is that when Zilisch, Rollan and the rest of the MX-5 Cup field go side-by-side, they’re in it to win it because, in that moment, it’s the only thing that matters.


So far in the 2023 MX-5 Cup, 32 drivers have taken a start, representing nine different teams. One of those drivers is defending champion Jared Thomas, who also happens to be one of the nine team owners with JTR Motorsports Engineering.

Jared Thomas his MX-5 Cup Scholarship into a successful racing enterprise.

As a past scholarship and title winner, Thomas has decided to reinvest his winnings in MX-5 Cup by building an organization that uses the series as a foundation of a long-term business plan. Including his own, JTR fields six entries in this year’s championship. After only three seasons, it’s a testament not only to what he’s building, but to the viability of MX-5 Cup as an enterprise with growth potential. In doing so Thomas has uniquely straddled the divide between MX-5 Cup as career launcher and a destination by making it his career destination.

Don’t miss the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich as it heads to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Rounds 5 and 6 on May 13-14. All races are streamed live on and archived on The RACER Channel on YouTube. To view the full season schedule and learn more about the series visit