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Mazda Makes Racing Affordable

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author photo by Colin Ryan March 2012

Forget Ferrari. Forget Porsche. Forget Ford, even. Yes, they all have enviable reputations on the race-track and trophy cabinets stuffed so full it's hard to close the doors. But the real mainstay of the racing scene is Mazda.

The company claims that more road racers use its cars than any other. Most of them are track-prepared versions of the MX-5 Miata, the perennially popular rear-drive roadster. These are known as Spec Miatas.

"There are about 3,000 Spec Miatas in the country," said Dean Case, spokesman for the Mazdaspeed division, "the largest class in the SCCA." The good Mr. Case is referring to the Sports Car Club of America, the body that organizes grassroots racing all over the country. Case reckons there are another 2,000 or so Mazda racers who are active, adding that the marque is "by far the most popular brand" within the SCCA. "We outnumber the combined efforts of Toyota, Nissan and Honda," he said.

The purpose behind all this is, of course, to sell cars. There are a whole bunch of well-worn phrases like "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" and "competition improves the breed." Another one is: "to finish first, first you have to finish." And if there's one way to prove how reliable a car is, try abusing it every Sunday through the summer.

That's exactly what some guys have done. "The MX-5 Miata that Kent Prather (from Kansas -- http://www.pratherracing.com/history.shtml) drove to the 2011 SCCA GT-L Championship had already won three championships, in two other classes, after 180,000 miles on the street," said Case.

Petri Suvanto is a young Finnish driver coming up through the ranks in American competition. He won the 2011 USF2000 Championship and the Mazda 2.0-liter engine he was using already had half a season's worth of racing on it before the 2011 schedule began.

Go to a Skip Barber Racing School and there will be plenty of MX-5 Miatas used for instruction. Mazda is instrumental in bringing many drivers from club racing up to big-time series like Indy cars and NASCAR. And there's a new class of racing designed to be far more affordable. It's called B-Spec and the cars involved are subcompacts like the Honda Fit, Mini Cooper and Mazda2.

A 2012 Mazda2 Sport starts at $14,530. Mazdaspeed now offers a B-Spec package for $2,575.

The package includes a new suspension, including shock absorbers made by Bilstein (suppliers to Porsche). The brakes are upgraded and there's also an oil cooler kit, air filter and new exhaust system.

The rules for B-Spec stipulate that the engine stays stock, only 100 horsepower in the Mazda2's case. But now would be the time to trot out another well-used truism: it's better to drive a slow car at its absolute limits rather than never exploit the full potential of a more powerful machine.

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Mazda Makes Racing Affordable - Autotrader