Spec MX-5 Challenge At NOLA: “That Was Epic!”

Spec MX-5 Challenge central series drivers visited NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans over the September 7-9 weekend for rounds 7 and 8 of their regular season. None of these drivers had been to NOLA before, so it was a weekend full of learning experiences and a great equalizer.

The weekend started off with a practice day that featured both dry and full wet conditions. Given that the forecast was mixed for the Saturday qualifying session and Saturday and Sunday races, it was good to get both kinds of experience. The drivers kept things clean during practice and the Winding Road Racing crew was pleased not to have to make any crash repairs for the weekend. 

Saturday’s qualifying session was uneventful, with points leader Tom Martin III taking pole, leveraging his aerospace engineering skills (he designs autonomous aircraft in his day job) to take advantage of the draft on NOLA’s two long straights. A surprise, but welcome, visitor to the front row was teenager Harry Voigt. The front row was followed by Noah Grey, Matt Million and Clayton Cavell. 

In Race 1, conditions were dry.  At the green, the front three drivers took off, building a substantial gap. But on the second lap, they began a race-long pass and re-pass demonstration. These cars ran nose to tail most of the time, and pretty soon a small crowd on the viewing balcony began to focus on this race as they realized the Spec MX-5s were putting on quite a show.

Overall, we counted 20 lead changes during the race, with Martin, Grey and Voigt all getting multiple turns at the front. When the white flag was waved, Grey was in front of Martin, who was unable to make a pass at the end of either straight on the final lap. Undaunted, Martin set himself up for a great launch off the final turn, while Grey struggled to get the power down. Martin pulled alongside Grey at the start/finish line as the checkered flag flew, but was pipped by 0.028 seconds, giving Grey the win. While all this back-and-forth was happening, Clayton Cavell was able to reel the field in. The top four cars crossed the line within 0.5 seconds. 

As drivers climbed out of their cars, there were many smiles and congratulations from drivers, friends and families. More than once the phrase “that was epic” could be heard. 

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Race 2 was also clear and hot. From pole, Martin used careful gear and speed selection to optimize his start. The inside row therefore got the jump, with Grey and Cavell just inches behind Martin into T1. From there things settled down a bit with the front group trying to break the draft to the other drivers.

This is racing, however, and about 5 laps in, Grey tired of staring at Martin’s bumper and he took over the lead, though this only lasted half a lap. Some back and forth ensued, though drivers were more mindful of their Yokohama tires, which they had all overheated in the intense final laps on Saturday. The repeat of the Grey-Martin dogfight allowed Matt Million to catch up after his less than ideal start. Million made some nice passes and then was able to use lap traffic to create a gap. At the white flag, Million had enough of a lead on Martin that there was no point in trying to be the hero and Martin decided to just bring it home. The final order was Million, Martin, Grey, Voigt, Cavell. 

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The spectators on hand were again impressed with the pace and passing skills of the Spec MX-5 Challenge field. On the NOLA short circuit, the combination of balanced Mazda handling, Yokohama grip and Pagid brake performance allowed the MX-5s to lap V-8 powered cars who shared this run group, and the drivers were able to pass cleanly just about anywhere on the track. 

The drivers are looking forward to back-to-back weekends, as they travel to the Circuit of  The Americas for rounds 9 and 10 of the central series on September 13-15. As usual, in-car live streaming will be on the Spec MX-5 Facebook page.

2019 Season Information

We have received many enquiries about the 2019 season. We are accepting applications while we put the finishing touches on our plans. To help prospective drivers learn more about the 2019 series and possibly submit a preliminary application, the series provides the following materials:

2019 FAQ

Spec MX-5 Videos:

Visit the Spec MX-5 YouTube Channel for more videos.

About the Spec MX-5 race car.

Spec MX-5 Challenge Driver Application.

Race Photos:
(click each image to view larger)

Interested in participating in the Spec MX-5 Challenge, but have questions? Contact us.

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