Introduction

The Mazda Miata is the most-raced car in North America, and for good reason. The platform itself is compliant and predictable, which makes it a great car for learning to drive well. At the other end of the learning curve, it takes every last ounce of technique and error-free driving to get the most from the car and if you watch some of the videos at the end of this feature, you’ll see what that looks like. If you’re on the fence about racing in Spec Miata, read on to find out what it’s like. Then come join the fun.

 

Class Description

The NASA Spec Miata Challenge is an affordable racing series, primarily focused on road racing, and shall function as an advertising and marketing tool for the series sponsors, the independent sponsors of each team, as well as the official sanctioning body of the series. The purpose of this series is to provide an avenue to promote sponsor brand awareness on a national scale. Additionally, this series should provide a stage to showcase driving talent, in hopes that the most talented drivers will advance to even higher-level professional series.”

 

Eligible Makes and Models

All first- and second-generation Mazda Miatas are eligible for competition in Spec Miata. Because there are differences in performance between the models, Spec Miata uses the “weights and plates” method for achieving parity.

 

Donor Prices and Availability

Everything from free on Craigslist to about $5,000 for a nice, clean donor. Availability is still plentiful, although rust can be a problem in some regions.

Engine Specs

“All engines, components, and parts must have been offered for sale in a Mazda Miata, sold by a dealer in the United States of America unless otherwise specified in these rules. All engines and their internal components must remain stock, except as provided by these rules, and within factory specified tolerances unless otherwise specified within this document.” This applies to all 1.6- and 1.8-liter cars.

 

Weight

Year

Min. Weight (lbs.)

Restrictor Plate

1990-1993

2,275 None
1990-1993 2,290 (w/.010”overbore)

None

1994-1997

2,400 None
1994-1997 2,415 (w/.010”overbore)

None

1999-2000

2,400 38 mm
1999-2000 2,415 (w/.010”overbore)

38 mm

2001-2005

2,425 40 mm
2001-2005 2,440 (w/.010”overbore)

40 mm

 

Fuel Required

Fuel usage is restricted to unleaded gasoline commonly found at retail pumping stations (Shell, Chevron, Citgo, etc.). Octane is limited to a maximum of 94 (R+M)/2 as labeled on the pump. Race fuels such as, but not limited to, ERC brand are prohibited. All fuel additives are illegal, per the CCR. Note- event supplemental rules supersede this section.”

Average Cost to Build Car

$10,000 to $15,000. Plan on spending more for a front-running, Championships-caliber car.

 

Average Cost to Buy Built Car

$5,000 for an older car to $30,000 for a front-running, Championships-caliber car.

 

Typical Modifications

  • There aren’t many modifications allowed. Follow the rulebook to take advantage of all permitted mods.
  • A race exhaust is required, and now there are a number of options available.
  • Extended lower ball joints and offset front bushings open up more setup options.
  • A “pro” motor is more or less essential for running up front.

Cost Analysis

Average cost to run a weekend — $1,000, all in, entry fees, lodging, food, brakes, tires, fuel. And beer. Mmmm, beer.

 

Consumables Prices

Tires, size, brand and prices

Toyo Proxes RR, 205-50-15, $175 from Phil’s Tire Service, Cragsmoor, N.Y.

Toyo Proxes RA1, 205-50-15, (wet), $172 from Phil’s Tire Service, Cragsmoor, N.Y.

 

Brakes, brands and prices

Hawk DTC 60 front    $115

Carbotech XP10 front  $158

G Loc R10 front           $150

 

Available contingencies

Mazda Motorsports, Toyo Tires, Hawk Performance,

 

Factory Participation

Yeah, boy howdy!

Benefits

  • Respectable fields in nearly all regions. Big fields in most regions.
  • There’s usually someone to race with anywhere in the field.
  • Genuinely affordable cars if you just want to race and have fun.
  • The best factory support in all of amateur racing.
  • Miatas are good racecars for rookies and experts alike.
  • Huge knowledge base.
  • Spec Miata is a rung on the ladder to pro racing.

 

Challenges

  • An occasional tendency for argy-bargy at the front of the pack.
  • Comprehensive teardowns at Championships.
  • Spec Miata is a rung on the ladder to pro racing.

Rulebook Highlights

  • 1.6-liter vehicles may use a cone-type air filter assembly. The air filter assembly may include integrated or attached components that may serve the purpose of shielding ONLY the air filtration element and air intake tube prior to the AFM from radiant engine heat. 
  • For 1.8-liter cars, any filter may be used, providing that it is comprised of components and materials other than air cooling systems, cooling chemicals, or cooling chemical compounds.
  • Any adjustable mechanical fuel regulator may be used, but it may not be adjustable from the cockpit.
  • Any front and rear camber is allowed within the normal limits of adjustment. The only modifications to increase or decrease camber allowed are the inner suspension bushings on the front upper control arms and/or the extended lower ball joints.
  • All cars are permitted to use the “R” model tie rod ends part # N021-32-280A.
  • Steel braided brake lines may be used.
  • To improve driver exit through the window area, the driver vent window and vent window supports may be removed.
  • Power steering rack may be converted to manual.
  • All cars shall use either the unmodified Mazdaspeed bump stop (Part #0000-04-5993AW) included with the Mazdaspeed suspension kit or the Fatcat Motorsports Spec Miata kit FCM-MT-KIT-SM along with the 1999 shock hats.

What Racers Say

Sean Douglass, NASA SoCal

Sean Douglass

“Spec Miata is an affordable class that anyone can race without having to be a hands-on mechanic. The car is easy to drive, well balanced, predictable and very forgiving — and racing a lower horsepower car decreases my chance of killing myself.

In racing, there’s always camaraderie because we are all out there doing what we love, but with Spec Miata it’s even closer. The spec nature of the class leads to closer racing, which leads to more experiences on the track, which leads to more things to laugh about in the paddock.

You don’t have to be a hairdresser to race Spec Miata. The NB is the best looking Spec Miata! Just kidding. Don’t work so hard constantly tuning and trying to make your 200-hp race car faster. Instead, race a Spec Miata and work on your driving. The dynamics learned in a Spec Miata is easily carried over and will improve your racing higher horsepower cars later.”

 

John “Hammer” Palazzolo, NASA Southeast

John “Hammer” Palazzolo

“I bought my first Miata in 1995. That’s the car I started autocross and track days with, so when it was time to go wheel-to-wheel racing, Spec Miata was the logical choice: a car I already knew, plus lots of guys to run with. The knowledge base is huge, the cars are dead-on reliable and if you do actually bend one, the parts are cheap. Thanks to “real life,” I can’t run the full season, which makes Spec Miata even more attractive because it offers so much value, and I love the community.

“I’ve almost won our championship — finished second a couple seasons ago — and sometimes I’m struggling to get out of my own way, but regardless of what’s happening, the folks I race with are great friends. We will beat the bejeezus out of each other on track, but we’re sharing stories and beverages in the paddock. My closest friends are those I’ve met through motorsports.

People need to know that the Miata is a “real” racecar! In my day job, I instruct owners of some very impressive, high-horsepower cars. I own a Porsche and I’ve owned a Viper, so if Spec Miata can satisfy my desires, it can for anyone.”

 

Justin Casey, NASA NorCal

Justin Casey

“In my opinion, it is the most competitive class that an amateur driver can race within the United States. Having a competitive field motivates me to continually improve my race craft as well as keep my racecar at optimum performance throughout the entire season.

For the price, you simply cannot find a better class that has consistently high entries every race weekend, especially racing with a top-class racing organization like NASA. In addition to price, whether veteran or a rookie, every driver has the nearly the same opportunity to win if they have prepared well enough.

There is definitely a learning curve for this class that drivers/team members need to understand to be successful. I have also noticed that you get a big sense of camaraderie from all the Spec Miata drivers and teams that really make this class very enjoyable.”

 

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