Cumming, Ga. (March 28, 2018) – For Manny Martinez, racing is a lifelong dream – no matter how long that life lasts.
Martinez grew up at the race track, holding a stopwatch for his father and uncle when he was just three years old (we didn’t investigate how accurate he was!). When he finally got his driver’s license, he nearly went straight to the autocross course, ready to drive in a performance environment.
The nearly 30-year-old (his birthday is April 3, next week!) took a break for college, where his time and money went to tuition and gaining experience at Utopia Home Care – the family home health care business. After graduating with an MBA, however, and a return to the New York-area branch, it was back to driving.
His father and uncle were club racers in the Northeast, and Martinez joined his father at their side business, Island Motor Cars. The duo buy and sell exotic cars, and used those proceeds to help renew the racing dream at his local Porsche Club events.
While considering his options for a professional series, he talked to Atlanta Speedwerks founder and Spec MX-5 East Series head Todd Lamb. With a $100,000 scholarship on the line and a chance to test his skill against drivers in an identical car, he sold one of those previously mentioned track cars and climbed into the Mazda MX-5 for the first time.
“I’m really happy to be in a series where it’s fair racing,” Martinez said. “Everything is controlled, it’s identical cars. Sometimes it becomes an arms race to see who has the most money in their cars, so I’m really grateful there’s a bunch of high skilled drivers here and we’re all in identical cars. It’s amazing to see us all trade positions, and just how close the times are. It’s fair, clean racing in identical cars, and that’s what I was looking for as a driver.”
Though Martinez had not been behind the wheel of a Mazda for any extended amount of time, he adapted quickly on opening weekend. In a rainy race that caught many very good drivers out, Martinez raced around wheel to wheel for a second-place finish.
He was no slouch in the opening race in the dry, either, running in the lead pack before finishing fourth.
“I had not driven the NC car,” Martinez said. “I feel like I adapt well to new cars, I constantly drive new cars. Front engine, rear engine, mid-engine, I’ve driven all of them. Low horsepower, high horsepower. Hopefully I’ll be able to adjust to this car.
“The car is very well balanced, very forgiving. It’s not too twitchy at the limit. It’s a great platform.”
No matter what happens this season, Martinez is viewing it as just another step in his career.
“I plan to be racing until I’m old,” Martinez said. “My father’s still out there, and I’d like to do the same. In the more immediate future, you enter a series like this to win. That’s what attracts us to the series, is there’s a full ride to climb the pro ladder. My goal is to attract sponsors out of this. If I can get a free racing seasons up to the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup and beyond, that would be my goal. I’d eventually like to drive in the WeatherTech Series at the Rolex 24 and win that watch, that would be my ultimate dream.
“Racing is my favorite thing to do. If I can make some money out of it while I do, that’s amazing.”
The East Series of the Spec MX-5 Cup returns to action, again at VIR, May 11-13. The Central Series returns to action May 4-6 at Circuit of the Americas.