At the root of all car lovers is a race car driver waiting to get out. At some point all of us have had daydreams of crossing the finish line at the Indy 500 or standing on top of the podium at the Monaco Grand Prix. Many of us have let our daydreams turn into a full on obsession with motorsports and have latched on to one form of racing or many as serious fanboys/girls. However, as much fun as it is to watch and follow racing there is nothing quite like doing it yourself. Yet the path to becoming a race car driver used to be quite hidden and has remained to be very, very expensive. Thanks to great programs like the Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder and the Skip Barber Racing Series the route from armature to professional is a bit easier to find. Yet following that route has become more expensive than ever before. It is that fact that has many would be racers turning sponsorship acquisition into a second job (the first job is to fund any racing that they already do!). Anyone who has ever tried to seek out sponsorship dollars for a cause or sports knows that they have to deal with a marketing manager, advertising agency, or sometimes both. To even have a shot at getting sponsorship money to go racing one has to learn how to put together a sponsorship proposal, know lingo like “impressions”, study returns on investment, become an expert in social network marketing, have “media training”, and so forth. These days the path to racing winds through the dark woods of marketing so much that someone will become an MBA in marketing before becoming a race car driver. In the whirlwind of power point presentations, photoshop renderings, and excel spreadsheets it can be easy to forget why you wanted to become a race car driver in the first place. The heart of racing has become buried in the budgets of marketing departments of non-endemic corporations and is guarded by brand managers who are looking for a “marketable face, name, or story” over talent or passion. Where does “Joe Racer” who just go when he just wants to race for the joy of racing besides the local go-kart track or Xbox Live? The answer could be a new race class conceived by a collaboration between Mazda and Honda called “B-Spec”
How can B-Spec be a new entry way into racing? Well I was invited along with a small group of journalists to Willow Springs Raceway by Mazda and Honda so that they could explain it to us personally. Here is how they put it:
So there you have it. The passionate minds from Mazda and Honda want you to be able to get a “B-level” car such as a Mazda2 or Fit and with the purchase of a kit, some elbow grease, safety equipment, and a fabricator to put in a cage you can participate in a race in several sanctioned race series or (likely with sponsorship support) try to run a full season in one particular series of choice. Although sponsorship might be key go compete for a full season in a B-Spec class, there will be rules and regulations to keep a manufacturer from stepping in and becoming overly dominant. OEM participation will be limited to simply offering B-Spec kits to customers. So far there is an impressive list of OEM’s that will be a part of B-Spec but it is promised that none of those OEMs will dump a ton of money into any one team to get an edge over the competition. There are also rules to keep power as equal as possible among the eligible cars from each OEM. For example certain cars will have to run intake restrictors to keep their horsepower closer to the rest of the pack. Of course certain cars may still have advantages or disadvantages due to wheel base, suspension type, etc. However, no one car will have a disproportionate advantage over the others. The great thing about B-Spec is that SCCA is on board and making an effort to include B-Spec classes not only in their club racing series but in some of their bigger pro series such as World Challenge and even Rally racing. There is also a possibility of B-Spec being a part of Grand-Am endurance racing as well. So, theoretically with one car you could go to a number of different race disciplines without having to make many changes (if any) to your B-Spec car. The bottom line is not only does B-Spec make real racing accessible again to people who want to race for the love of racing but it also still provides a doorway into the professional ranks for those who still wish to seek that out as well. B-Spec has the potential to give racing’s soul back to the racers and with OEMs such as Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Nissan, Ford, GM, and most recently MINI race fans will get to see real manufacturer competition in America again.
By the way if all of this is getting you exciting about going racing but you have no experience have no worries. I drove B-Spec versions of both the Mazda2 and Honda Fit and they are both incredibly easy to drive in race-trim and with an impromptu coaching session from GrandAM driver Charles Espenlaub I was able to pull a decent amount of speed from both chassis. I would recommend a three-day school at Skip Barber to get race theory and technique down followed by a few SCCA races at the club level and you will have the confidence and skill it takes to try your hand in one of the premiere series.
As B-Spec unfolds in 2012 we plan to keep the site updates with any news and developments that will arise. If you are anxious to get your feet wet now I suggest looking for a Mazda2 or Honda Fit and contacting either Mazdaspeed Motorsports or Honda Performance Development as they will likely be first out of the gate to have B-Spec kits available. I might look into it myself! Stay tuned! In the meantime you can check out the full SCCA B-Spec rule book by clicking on the link below.
In Europe it is Ferrari, Renault, BMW and Red Bull who get all the credit for investing in the development of young drivers but here in America it is Mazda that is taking on the task of bringing young American drivers up through the ranks of amateur racing and into the pros with their Mazdaspeed Ladder program. This weekend the program’s success was proven when Conor Daly (son of former F1 driver Derek Daly) took his first Firestone Indy Lights series victory on the streets of Long Beach in the #77 Mazda “Road To Indy” car some 30 years or so after his father raced on the same course in an F1 car. While Conor didn’t qualify on the pole he was able to pull away with the win by keeping a cool head and consistently putting pressure on any car that was in his sights. After a few of the front runners had mishaps due to car troubles or a lapse of focus Conor made his way to the front and finished in first place under yellow. Congrats to Mazda and Conor for getting their first of many victories in the Indy Lights Series. Scroll down for a few video highlights of the race.
For the last 5 years Mazda has invited journalists to have lunch and discuss Mazda’s standing in the world of motorsports through their Mazdaspeed brand and activities. Usually they incorporate a fun event into the luncheon like electric kart racing at K1 or having a special screening of movies like “Driven To Race“. This year Mazda went all out and roped off a huge area at Hidden Valley park and set up not one but two autocross courses complete with Skip Barber Racing school MX-5 Miata’s, Mazda3’s, and even a full race-spec Mazda2 to thrash!
Also, for the first time since Mazda started the luncheon, drifting was represented at the event with the BMI Racing 4 rotor RX-8, the Bergenholtz Racing/Full Tilt Poker RX-8, and the Kyle Mohan Racing/Nexen Tire RX-8 all on display. Although, none of the RX-8’s seemed like they were quite ready to rock yet it was nice to see the RX-8’s making an appearance.
Once the first session of autocrossing was over we sat down under the canopy of the Star Mazda racing rig and had a chat with Senior VP of Product Development Robert Davis on how Mazda is holding up in the uncertain economy and how their progress is still tied to motorsports. For the most part things seemed to be the status quo for Mazda which is a very good thing in their case. They haven’t lost market share, the Miata has become the #1 selling roadster in history, they’re still the #1 road raced brand in America, and to date over $75 million worth of Mazdaspeed parts have been sold since 1990. It’s also worthy to note that this year marks the 20 year anniversary of Mazda’s overall 1991 win at LeMans with the 787 4-rotor race car. After all this time Mazda is still the only Japanese company to win the event outright! It was hinted that some special events to celebrate the occasion were in the works but no specifics were revealed. I’ll try to keep you posted on that!
It was also pointed out that despite the shaky economy Mazda’s motorsports involvement is still going strong. The Playboy MX-5 Cup is still fiscally one of the most rewarding racing series around with a $250k purse up for grabs (which is more than what you’d get for winning the Ferrari Challenge Series!). Star Mazda has reached its 21st year of competition which makes it the longest running road-racing series in America and the Mazdaspeed motorsports ladder is going on its 26th year. That last bit of info led to the news that despite the demise of the Atlantic series throwing things off Mazda maintains their open wheel ladder by being the official partner for the “Road To Indy“. Which is the path from amateur racing all the way up to Indy Car Series competition.
The next big announcement was Mazdasinvolvement in the new “B-Spec” racing class (sanctioned by NASA) with the Mazda2. In fact the “race spec” Mazda2 at the autocross course that I mentioned earlier was the very same Mazda2 that ran the B-Spec class at Thunderhill. Right now they’re current competitionin “B-Spec” class racing is Honda withthe Honda Fit but Mr. Davis said that he would welcome more competition from other manufacturers like GM (likely with the Chevy Aveo).
When the floor was opened up to questions I asked if B-Spec class racing would be folded into the Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder. The answer I got from Mr. Davis as well as Alternative Marketing Manager Jim Jordan was that while the B-Spec class wont be an “official” part of the ladder if you win a B-Spec class race in a Mazda2 you will be eligible to compete in the annual Mazdaspeed shoot out which can lead to entrance into one of the Mazdaspeed ladder series. So in a way B-Spec class racing is something of a foot-stool that can help you get to the ladder. Looks like I’m going to need to get myself a Mazda2!
Based on what I heard at this year’s lunch, Mazda is going to continue to make a respectable dent in motorsports. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! Thanks to Mazda for the invite and for letting me get behind the wheel of a Skip Barber MX-5!
If you’re a true racing fanatic you were probably glued to your TV for the entire weekend watching the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona race on SPEED. If you were watching you witnessed one heck of a race that was forged in extreme adversity. Nearly every team on the grid in the major classes suffered some sort of drastic issue that caused a frantic behind-pit-wall session. Amazingly most of those teams were able to fight back from those issues to still finish respectably, yet not as high as they would like. However, there were other teams who saw the misfortunes of their competitors and decided to literally carpe diem and use the rare opportunity to see how far they could get if they gave everything they have. One such team was Dempsey Racing, owned by “Dr. McDreamy” himself Patrick Dempsey. Patrick, along with his driving teammates Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub, and Tom Long banded together to push their #40 Mazda RX-8 to third spot on the GT class Podium. They finished higher than the typically dominant #69 Speedsource RX-8 which is a massive accomplishment! If you were watching the SPEED TV feed you saw a visually emotional Patrick Dempsey talk about his thoughts on his team’s first ever podium. Congrats to you and your team Patrick!
Team Perseverance & Mazda Reliability Yields Four Top-Ten Finishes at Rolex 24
— First Podium Finish For Patrick Dempsey-Led Mazda RX-8 Team —
January 30, 2011 (Daytona, Fla.) – With new rules and new tires for 2011, Mazda’s teams at the 2011 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona knew that their best opportunity was to be as perfect as possible – perfect reliability, perfect pit stops, and perfect luck. Alas, the race turned rough for the majority of the 30 GT-class cars that took the green flag on Saturday afternoon. Fate caused the majority of cars, of all brands, to have at least one trip behind pit-wall. The win would be decided by a combination of speed and the ability to deal with adversity.
The breakout performance amongst the Mazda teams was the No. 40 Dempsey Racing VISITFLORIDA / ModSpace / Construct Corps Mazda RX-8. Dempsey Racing is the partnership between actor/racer Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster. Joining Dempsey and Foster in the driver’s seat were road-racing veterans Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long. The team started brightly – in day-glow colors for returning partner VISITFLORIDA as well as new partners ModSpace and Construct Corps. The team led six times for a total of 197 laps, Patrick himself being the first of the four team drivers to lead. The team was leading when Tom Long spun on lap 512, at which time the car developed an electrical issue and failed to restart. The team dropped to fifth before recovering for a third-place finish – the first ever for the No 40 team and the best-placed Mazda in the race.
As the defending champions in just about everything related to Grand-Am GT, Mazda expectations were high in Daytona. After all, 2010 had delivered the Rolex Grand-Am GT Manufacturers Championship, Team Championship (No 69 SpeedSource FXDD) and Drivers Championship (Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato). Mazda also won the GT class in the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona, their 23rd such Daytona class win.
John Doonan, MAZDASPEED Team Development Manager noted that, “As we saw in 2010, the Mazda teams have an amazing ability to deal with adversity. Hopefully we used up our share of bad luck at Daytona today, and we’ll move on towards our goal of a repeat manufacturers championship. We’re thrilled for Patrick, Joe and the entire Dempsey Racing organization as they reaped the results of hard work during the off-season. Once again we had 100% reliability of the Mazda rotary engine. Many of our devout rotorheads followed the action, both on SPEED TV, as well as the growing MAZDASPEED Motorsports Facebook page. The teams have a few weeks off to make repairs before we make a return visit to the sunshine state for the Grand Prix of Miami on March 5th.”
A total of nine Mazda RX-8s competed in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Their finishing place:
3rd Place #40 Dempsey Racing VISITFLORIDA/ModSpace/Construct Corps Mazda RX-8
6th Place #70 SpeedSource Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8
7th Place #42 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8
10th Place #41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8
18th Place #63 Team Spencer Motorsports Mazda RX-8
28th Place #43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 (DNF – Concentrated efforts on #42 entry)
29th Place #36 Yellow Dragon Motorsports (DNF – Crash damage)
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you’ll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the world is Spec Miata, with more than 2,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America’s racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda’s involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world’s premier road-racing circuits, the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing, and the Mazda Road to Indy.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
I swung by the Mazdaspeed booth in the north hall at SEMA and was stopped in my tracks by this super aggressive Mazda3 time attack car. It’s rocking a custom turbo kit from Tri-Point motorsports and a crazy aerodynamic set up. I’m guessing the principal behind the aerodynamic design is to help keep this FWD car planted as if it were AWD. It certainly looks the part!
We literally just got back from SevenStock 13 a few hours ago and here I am writing this post! The first thing I want to say is I had a great time! Mazda is one of the few OEMs that really has their fingers on the pulse of their enthusiasts. As always they brought out some legendary race cars from their “museum” and beyond that there were plenty of other awesome factory backed Mazdas on display, including the Rolex Series Champion Speed Source RX-8, the BMI Racing 4 Rotor RX-8, and the Full Tilt Poker/Burgenholtz RX-8. All of that awseomness isn’t even counting the fleets of fresh daily driven Mazdas on display brought by the enthusiasts. There were some fresh rotaries on display! Check out the full gallery on our Facebook Page.
Earlier today in downtown Long Beach Bergenholtz racing made the announcement that Full Tilt Poker.com will be their team title sponsor for the 2010 Formula Drift season. This is the first non-energy drink/non-endemic sponsor to enter the series in a while which makes me feel better about the progression of the sport. For a while I thought drifting might have reached a tipping point but it looks like its still on the rise. Congrats to the Bergenholtz team and a big welcome to Full Tilt Poker to drifting!
Once again a Mazda RX-8 took it to an ocean of Porsches and captured the checkered flag in the GT class at the famous 24 Hours Of Daytona over the weekend. Of the 7 Mazdaspeed backed RX-8s in the field three of them were within the top 10 in the GT class. Besides the #70 SpeedSource RX-8 that took 1st, the #40 Dempsey Racing (The car driven by “Dr. McDreamy himself) RX-8 came in 6th, and the #43 Team Sahlen RX-8 followed right behind taking 7th. SpeedSource’s win on Sunday is the 23rd for Mazdaspeed supported vehicles in the history of the race. I’m going to go ahead and make an early prediction that we’re going to see a lot more wankels in the field next year!
Mazda as always done pretty well in Daytona but this Saturday at the 48th running of the famous 24 hour race Mazda is increasing their chances of a win…by 7! There will be 7 Mazda RX-8’s in the field this weekend including the highly seasoned Speedsource RX-8 which has already captured wins at Daytona and Patrick Dempsey (AKA “Dr. McDreamy) in a Dempsey racing RX-8. Should be interesting to see the RX-8’s mixing it up with the inevitable ocean of Porsches on track. Check out renderings of all 7 entrys in the pic below.
Seven Mazda RX-8 teams are entered in the Rolex 24 for the GT class. Each RX-8 is powered by a 500hp three-rotor Mazda rotary engine.
#30 The Racers Edge RX-8 featuring 2009 MX-5 Cup Champion Todd Lamb and 2009 Atlantic Champion John Edwards
#40 The Dempsey Racing RX-8 featuring America’s fastest actor, Patrick Dempsey.
#41 The second Dempsey Racing RX-8 will be run in conjunction with Team Seattle as a charity fundraiser for a children’s hospital.
#42/43 A pair of Team Sahlen RX-8s. No strangers to Mazda, the Nonnamaker Brothers will be a factor all season long. This is their race debut in an RX-8 in Grand-Am GT competition.
#69 The SpeedSource FXDD RX-8. This team won two races in 2009.
#70 The SpeedSource Castrol Syntec RX-8. The Sylvain Tremblay-led team is looking to repeat their 2008 Rolex win. Joining the team fulltime for 2010 is Jonathan Bomarito. Jonathan is a former Mazda Atlantic Championship Star.
So during the special “Mazda 22” event a few journalists asked Mazda if there would be any accessories available for the Mazda2, if the Mazda2 would be involved in racing, or if there would be a Mazdaspeed2. The answer to all three of those questions was either “no” or “there are no announcements”. All to be expected correct? However on the west side if their exhibit I see a Mazda2 decked out with different wheels, and even a carbon fiber wing! Oh and there were “Mazdaspeed” decals in strategic locations. So what’s the deal Mazda?! I think the cat is out of the bag!
UPDATE: So Mazda’s explaination is that this awesome little rocket is a “concept” known as the “Mazda 2Evil” but we can’t help but notice how it looks strikingly like an OEM variant! Hmm I guess we will just have to wait and see what path they’ll take with this concept.
Mazda 2Evil Special Concept
This concept is inspired by the weekend track car but one that can function equally well as an urban commuter. The body has been modified to show a more aggressive front spoiler and a deeper side rocker for improved aerodynamics and lower overall stance. A strong lower diffuser is added to enhance the rear proportion and more emphasis is placed on the exhaust tip. The rear upper spoiler was redesigned for both additional downforce and a race appearance. The dynamic MAZDA2 body is finished in Ceramic Grey metallic with subtle motorsports inspired graphics. The graphics are finished off with the historic number 55, a tribute to the 1991 Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B race car. Wheels, mirrors and other details are accented in Spirited Green. To top it off, the performance and stance are enhanced with 17″ wheels, 215/45/17 Yokahama Advan tires, lowered coil-over suspension provided by H&R and Magnaflow performance exhaust.