Yesterday afternoon Mazda hosted a gaggle of media for their sixth annual motorsports pre-season lunch in which they let the world know how their racing division Mazdaspeed is doing and what they have in store for the year. This year the location chosen for the event was the Crevier Classic Cars collection and club house in Costa Mesa, CA which is host to rows and rows of valuable rare classic cars as well as a few high-dollar modern exotics (more on that in a later post). The meeting was a few hours long so I will just hit all the major news points covered during the conference.
As the meeting got underway the first order of business was introducing the 2012 class of Mazdaspeed Motorsports development ladder graduates. If you are not aware of it, Mazda has created one of the most well defined and most utilized path from armature racing to professional motorsports. Every year they help tons of drivers make it up the ranks from Go-Karting all the way up to the Indy Car Series through the “Mazda Road To Indy” program. 2012 is the year of the “Mazda Seven” as Scott Anderson (Skip Barber Champion), Michael Cooper (MX-5 Cup Champion), Tristan DeGrand (Skip Barber Shootout Champion), Danilo Estrella (Skip Barber Shootout Champion), Elliott Skeer (Club Racer Shootout Champion), Petri Suvanto (USF2000 Champion), and Tristan Vautier (Star Mazda Champion) were introduced as the latest drivers to progress up the Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder and continue on the Road to Indy program. After this years class was introduced it was announced that 17 year old Elliott Skeer will be joining the CJ Wilson racing team for a full season of MX-5 cup this year.
Mazda racing comes back to television
We also got late breaking news that Mazda has just signed a deal with Discovery to bring television broadcast of their MX-5 cup series, Star Mazda Series, and USF2000 to Discovery’s “Velocity” channel as part of the “Mazda Motorsports Hour”. The show is set to debut in April and the first season will consist of 24 one-hour episodes with Rick Benjamin, Randy Pobst, and James “Hinchtown” Hinchcliffe providing commentary.
B-Spec racing updates
Mazda announced that their B-Spec racing kit is now available and announced an MSRP of $2575 which makes their kit the least expensive offered so far. It was also announced that as of now there are four racing series adopting the B-Spec class for 2012: Pirelli World Challenge (3 weekends x 3 races), GRAND-AM (6 races), Canadian Touring Car Championship (full season), and SCCA Club racing. It was also hinted that winners of B-spec races will be eligible for Mazdaspeed shootout events for a shot at a spot on the Mazdaspeed development ladder.
There you have it! It looks like 2012 will be a big year for Mazdaspeed and for Mazda fans as well. I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out for the new ladder drivers, tuning in to the Mazda motorsports hour, and more developments on B-spec.
Most people are used to seeing C.J. Wilson on the pitchers mound but many may not know that he is actually an accomplished race car driver. When Baseball is in the off-season C.J. campaigns his own team in Mazda’s Playboy MX-5 cup. I was actually invited to lunch with C.J. and Mazda a while back and during the meal the Pitcher/Driver revealed that one of the ways keeps his racing chops sharp is by playing Forza Motorsport and he feels he is pretty good at it too, so much so he has decided to put his money (or in this case memrobillia) where his mouth is. In the “King Of The Track Challenge” he charges us all to beat his time in Forza Motorsport 4 for a chance to win some cool swag, including a C.J. Wilson Racing jacket signed by the man himself. There are also special edition DLC cars up for grabs as well.
If you want to take a crack at beating C.J.’s (Gamertag: Cjwilson33) time just pop in Forza Motorsport 4 and look for the “King Of The Track” event in the “Community Monthly” section of “Rivals” mode, then have at it!
Even though SEMA is mostly about the aftermarket, over the recent years OEMs have come to the party as well. While Ford and GM usually have a huge auto show like presence there are other manufactuers that keep it short and sweet. Mazda for example sent only their Mazdaspeed performance arm out to the show. Their booth was small but they had a few really great gems. Easily the favorite car of the booth was the “Turbo2″. No, we are not talking about a second gen RX-7. The Turbo2 is Mazda making a lot of people very happy by shoehorning a Mazdaspeed3 turbo engine into the tiny titan known as the Mazda2. While Mazda maintains that the Turbo2 is simply a concept build and there are “no current plants for production” they did reach out to Mazda fans via twitter asking if a turbo’d Mazda2 would be something of interest to them. We are going to guess that the answer they got was a resounding “YES!” Although we are not sure if that would be enough for Mazda to consider a production Turbo2, but we can still hope!
Also on hand in the Mazdaspeed booth was the MX-5 Spyder concept. The MX-5 Spyder is a re-imagining of the current MX-5 but with the class turned way up by ditching the hard top for a chic single pannel sweeping soft top which changes the lines of the car completely but for the better. To keep with Mazda’s commitment to “green” performance the MX-5 Spyder’s MZR engine runs on isobutanol which has an even less significant impact on the environment than ethanol.
Rounding out the booth were a few goodies from last year like the Super20 and the 3DCarbon Mazda2 as well as a few race cars like their ALMS racer and a vintage RX-7. You can see it all below in our Flickr slideshow.
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 own a Mazda MX-5 and bolted on a crap-tastic aftermarket muffler then you probably noticed really fast just how loud the engine really is on that car! When it first came out lots of companies threw together a system without doing much testing first so its hard to find an exhaust muffler kit with just the right sound.
The Racing Beat muffler is on the short list of the good ones. It looks pretty fresh and it wont turn your exhaust note into that annoying buzz sound that we hear all too often from the high school parking lots.
Cosworth has released some preview images of their new supercharger for the 06 and up Mazda MX-5 AKA Miata. It will be an all inclusive kit that comes with everything you need, including a water to air intercooler and a ECU reflashing device so that all the components work nicely with one another.
No info has been given on power numbers or pricing yet but since this is Cosworth its same to assume a significant power increase over stock and a significant price to back up the high quality.