The Mazda Miata
is currently the most popular road-racing car in America, so it's no surprise that Mazda
quickly turned its new model into a racer to compete in the professional MX-5 Cup, which pits identical MX-5s against each other and offers enough prize money to attract pro teams.
The formula for the Cup cars is simple. Start with a new MX-5 Sport, and add a $5500 Mazda racing-parts package that includes an AEM air intake and a DC Sports exhaust header that boost power to 195 hp-up from the stock car's 170. The package also includes a suspension kit with Eibach dampers that incorporate remote reservoirs, much stiffer Eibach springs, and solid antiroll bars. The brakes are stock, except for the addition of Hawk racing pads. Hankook provides the 225/45WR-17 tires. The cars are stripped of windows and interior trim to save weight, and the MX-5 Cup's 2600-pound minimum-weight-with-driver rule ensures that larger drivers aren't penalized against scrawnier competitors. The MX-5 Cup car looks great-slick graphics and a lowered stance always have that effect. Our test car had a stout roll cage and Sparco racing seats and belts.
The Cup car drives like a regular Miata, only more so. The extra power is nice, but the reduced weight is key to improved straight-line performance, and the car grips and stops much better than a standard model. The Cup car is still very chuckable, but it now can be adjusted for driver preference.
The Miata racer will run only in the SCCA's Showroom Stock B class and the MX-5 Cup until 2008, but Mazda expects it will then start trickling into other club-racing classes, where it will no doubt prove equally as popular as the earlier cars.