Spec MX-5 Challenge Racing 2021
Frequently Asked Questions v1.4
Why was the Spec MX-5 Challenge created?
The Spec MX-5 Challenge presented by Toyo Tires is intended to be The Driver Development series. While all seat time is helpful, Spec MX-5 Challenge is specifically designed for learning:
• Spec car to allow drivers to focus on driving
• Attention to costs to allow drivers to run the Challenge early in their careers
• Karters, recently-licensed drivers and drivers returning mid-career are specifically encouraged to participate and develop their skills here
• Extensive support for coaching, including online coaching, the SimRacing Challenge and the Team Series where drivers can race with their coaches
• Major prize money to support drivers who want to continue Spec MX-5 or move up a ladder
The Challenge series is a road racing championship in club racing like Spec Miata, offering a path for entry level and experienced club racers to compete as either a destination series or a step on the way to the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
The Challenge started in 2018 and will be entering its fourth season in 2021.
What are the specifications of the cars?
The Spec MX-5 v2 race car is based on the NC-generation (2006-2015) Mazda MX-5.
This is not the Spec Miata platform (which is based on NA and NB generation, 1990-2005 cars). Nor is it based on the current ND generation (2016-present) as is the MX-5 Cup car.
The NC platform has been selected because a) it allows a tightly-controlled spec series, b) it allows relatively low-cost cars to be built and run and c) the platform is capable of high performance which is a step above Spec Miata.
The Spec MX-5 race car uses the renowned Mazda MZR engine, with a Roush cylinder head and Mahle pistons. This provides an affordable, difficult-to-cheat package with about 40 hp over a Spec Miata engine (~170 wheel hp). With a racing weight of 2500 lb., the Spec MX-5 fits nicely in several club racing classes, specifically SCCA STL and NASA ST5.
With its race suspension, including Penske single-adjustable shocks, Eibach springs and the Toyo RR race tires used in the series, Spec MX-5 cars are significantly faster than Spec Miatas and T4 NC racers, and just slightly slower than ND2 MX-5 Cup cars. Here are some reference lap times for the Spec MX-5 v2:
Road Atlanta: 1:40.6
Road America: 2:38.5
Laguna Seca: 1:43.8
Circuit of The Americas: 2:34.5
How much will a new Spec MX-5 Cup build cost?
Of course this will depend on several factors including optional equipment selected, cost of donor and region of the country where the car is being built. It also depends on whether any work is self-performed by the driver. But we estimate that a basic build, including street donor cost, with all work performed professionally, should be possible for under $50,000. With the range of options that nationally competitive drivers are accustomed to, builds should be in the $55,000 to $60,000 range. With a $7,000 donor, the parts cost (no labor) for a basic build is $35,000.
Spec MX-5 2021 Build Sheet Example 1.1 is available so that you can see what basic and optional parts costs and what estimated labor hours are. This build sheet is periodically updated, so check back for the latest version.
Certain race shops will announce plans and pricing for 2021 Spec MX-5s soon.
What parts do I need to turn a donor car into a Spec MX-5 v2?
Mazda is sole source of many parts needed to build Spec MX-5s, including engine, suspension, cage, roof and more. In addition, WindingRoadRacing.com offers most of the other parts needed that are not offered by Mazda in the Spec MX-5 Parts Store.
Here is a complete Spec MX-5 2021 Build Sheet Example 1.1.
You may also purchase a completed race car, ready-to-run from one of the Spec MX-5 Challenge Preferred Race Shops.
How and where can I race a Spec MX-5?
The Spec MX-5 is intended to be the next great spec racing platform. It is classified in SCCA and NASA for club racing, initially as part of existing classes. For example, the Spec MX-5 v2 can run in ST5 with NASA and it can run in STL with the SCCA. It can also run in Champcar, AER and WRL for endurance racing. This gives racers hundreds of events each year in which to participate.
Mazda and Spec MX-5 Challenge, LLC also organize the largest race events (“Marquee events”) for Spec MX-5 each year. Approximately 22 Marquee events will be scheduled in 2021. At these Marquee events, Spec MX-5 racers will earn points in SMX class, which runs separately from STL or ST5 (different run group to allow double dipping and Team Series).
What is a Spec MX-5 Challenge Marquee Event?
Spec MX-5 Challenge Marquee events are the events on the Spec MX-5 Challenge calendar.
• These events make special arrangements for Spec MX-5 to run as a designated “SMX” class, in addition to either STL or ST5. Drivers may, therefor, “double dip” in a second separate run group containing STL or ST5 classes. This enables drivers to get more seat time and opens up the unique Spec MX-5 Challenge Team Option (see below).
• These SMX class races are where Spec MX-5 Challenge points are scored.
• The Marquee events point to events that are likely to have the highest car count.
• These Marquee events also award contingency money and prizes.
How Are Spec MX-5 Regions Set Up?
Note: The regions are shown below, but the tracks in each region may change as the schedule is updated (see actual tracks in the schedule).
Is There A Championship?
The regular season Marquee events in these regions feed into a national championship for Spec MX-5, with a minimum of $70,000 in prize money. There will also be Regional championships, and regular season championships for the Continental, Invitational and Team Options.
How is Spec MX-5 Challenge Racing Organized?
Spec MX-5 Challenge racing is different from many other club racing series. Challenge racing has been designed to recognize that different drivers have different budgets and interests, but would like to compete in a spec class with high car count. To address these needs, Spec MX-5 Challenge allows drivers to select from 4 different competitions, all of which crown their own winners and then feed into a combined National Championship event with significant prize money.
The Marquee events host groups of drivers aimed at different needs but running together on track:
- Regional Series. In five regions of the country (Northeast, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West), drivers will compete in as many Marquee events as they wish, and their regional results and National Championship carryover points will be based on points scored in their best 6 races. Drivers may run more than the necessary 3 events/6 races and this can include out-of-region events. A minimum of 4 races in a region must be counted, with a maximum of two races from out of region counted toward the Regional Championship. This allows drivers to compete in more than 1 Region, but they will be scored for regular season championship and carryover points purposes in only their best region. Points earned allow drivers to earn carryover points for both the Spec MX-5 National Championship and Regional prizes. Regional drivers will run together with Continental Series drivers, Invitational drivers and Team Option drivers, with all drivers competing on the same points scale in each event. Drivers can run their own cars or enlist a race shop to support them.
- Continental Series. Drivers may create a Spec MX-5 Challenge calendar and set of tracks to suit their needs. Continental Series drivers must run in a minimum of 3 regions and run at least 5 regular season events. 6 races are counted toward the regular season championship and National championship carryover points. This approach supports drivers who want to visit, learn and compete on their favorite or bucket list tracks. These talented drivers will run together with Regional Series drivers, Invitational drivers and Team Option drivers, with all drivers competing for the same points in each event. Drivers can run their own cars or enlist a race shop to support them.
- Invitational Series. All Spec MX-5 Challenge Marquee events will feature Invitationals. Drivers may apply for and run single events together with Regional, Continental and Team Series drivers. Invitationals are done on a full arrive and drive basis with support from designated pro race shops using rental Spec MX-5s. This approach supports drivers who want to “try before they buy” and developing drivers who want to compete for the National Championship. Drivers will run together with Regional Series drivers, Continental Series drivers and Team Option drivers, with all drivers competing for the same points in each event. Two races will be counted for points purposes.
- Team Series. The unique Spec MX-5 Challenge Team Option allows drivers to share a car and still compete against Continental, Invitational and Regional drivers. Two-driver teams, split the cost of one car and the other expenses for that car as they see fit. One of the drivers (“driver A”) runs the car in the SMX group on a weekend; the other driver (“driver B”) runs the car in the STL or ST5 group. At Championship, each driver runs one of the two races. Points are awarded to both drivers based on results vs other Spec MX-5 racers in each group for the best 12 races (6 SMX and 6 double-dip). Drivers will run together with Regional Series drivers, Continental Series drivers and Invitational drivers, with all drivers competing to earn points on the same scale in each event. Team Option driver combinations will be rated on points against other Teams to determine the regular season champion and carryover points for the National Championship. Drivers can run their own cars or enlist a race shop to support them. This approach works well for drivers who want to race with friends, drivers who need to significantly reduce the cost of the car and support, and drivers who want to race with their coaches. More information on the Team Option is here.
Here is a summary of the differences between the Series:
How Do The Points Work?
At each Marquee event in the SMX class, all drivers — Regional, Continental, Invitational and Team Option — will compete for points on the same 100 point scale. The driver who finishes Race 1 in first place, regardless of series, will earn 100 points. The driver who finishes P2, will score 95 points. P3 earns 92, P4 earns 90, and P5 and beyond getting 1 point less per position: 89, 88, 87 etc. If 5 or fewer cars are entered in a race, P1 will receive 95 points, P2 earns 92, and so on.
So, for example, if a West Region driver finishes P1 overall, she will score 100 points. If a Continental driver get P2s overall, he will score 95. If a Team Option driver gets P3, he will score 92, and if the top Invitational driver finishes P4 overall, she will get 90 points.
Team Option drivers also score points with their driver running in STL or ST5 class. These points are earned on a 100 point scale against other Spec MX-5s (but not other car types) running in the double-dip class. (If 5 or fewer Spec MX-5 cars are entered in an STL/ST5 race, P1 will receive 95 points, P2 earns 92, and so on as is done in SMX). Races are counted based on the best combined totals of SMX and double-dip points (e.g. you can’t cherry pick 6 SMX races and 6 different double-dip races).
The regular season points ranking and podium are determined separately for each Regional, Continental, Invitational and Team Option (8 total podiums). This is done by taking the average points earned by each driver or team. So, a North Region driver counts his top 6 races. If those earned 545 points, then his regular season points would be 545/6 = 90.83. If that is the highest average points value for North Region drivers, then our example driver wins the North Region regular season.
Similarly, a Continental Series driver might run 10 races. Points count for her top 8 races. If these total 750, then her average is 93.75. If that is the second highest total among all Continental Series drivers during the 2021 regular season, then she earns the second spot on the Continental regular season podium.
The same approach of averaging points per race counted is used for Invitational (all races are used to calculate season average) and Team Option (best 6 races) scoring.
Average points earned during the regular season are also treated as carryover points for the National Championship. In addition, drivers earn 1 bonus point per registered race.
The Spec MX-5 Challenge National Championship is currently planned for November 2021 at Road Atlanta. It will bring together the top points qualifiers in the Spec MX-5 Regional Series, Invitationals, Continental Series and Team competition. Each driver or team will carry over points based on the average from their regular season races counted toward their regular season championship. Each of two Championship races will offer 100 points on the same scale as in the Regular Season, with P1 earning 100, P2 earning 95, P3 earning 92, P4 earning 90, and P5 and beyond getting 1 point less per position. Carryover points plus those scored in the Championship races will determine the 2021 season champion. An estimated $70,000 in prizes will be awarded and drivers will also be eligible to be selected by Mazda for the MRT24 Shootout.
What Prize and Support Money Can I Earn?
There is extensive support available for Spec MX-5 racers:
• Mazda, Toyo and Pagid have offered a contingency program during the regular season and a similar program is expected to continue. Here is the contingency offering for 2021:
• The Spec MX-5 Challenge presented by Toyo Tires will award up to $70,000 in prizes at the Championship event in November at Circuit of The Americas.
• A $30,000 scholarship is slated for the winner of the Championship
What is the racing schedule for the series?
The regular season is expected to start in February and culminate in the Spec MX-5 National Championship in November. The exact schedule awaits event scheduling by Spec MX-5 partners SCCA and NASA.
The preliminary schedule is:
Northeast Region: Summit Point, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock Park, +1 (Mid-Ohio)
Southeast Region: VIR, Road Atlanta, Sebring, +1 (Summit Point)
North Central Region: Road America, Blackhawk Farms, Mid-Ohio, Gingerman
Southwest Region: COTA, Hallett, MSR Houston, Eagles Canyon, High Plains, Pueblo, +1 (Utah)
West Region: Buttonwillow, Sonoma, Thunderhill, Laguna Seca, Utah Motorsports
Note: The regions are shown above, but the tracks in each region may change as the schedule is updated (see actual tracks in the schedule).
SPEC MX-5 CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP
November: Road Atlanta
What will the weekend schedule be like?
Each event, except the Championship is run with either SCCA or NASA on a club racing weekend. The series will generally run 3-day events, with the first day being a track test day (usually 3-4 sessions on track), and the next two days following the standard regional weekend format of qualifying and a race each day. The cars running in the Challenge will be assigned an appropriate run group by the organizers and will have a split start from other classes.
What does the season cost and what do I get?
The cost for a season will depend on the type of racing, tow distances and service package selected by the driver. The Spec MX-5 Series office will be available to direct you to race shops providing Spec MX-5 Services. In addition, we will provide a list of entry fees for the various options described above.
Detailed pricing is shown in a PDF spec sheet covering some of the services and car ownership options that probably will be offered in 2021: Download a detailed example price and services sheet here.
Are there Spec MX-5 cars available for sale?
Yes, both used and new cars are available.
Most drivers will commission their race shop to build a car for them.
Winding Road Racing is accepting commissions for build slots that begin in October. Contact Winding Road Racing for pricing and availability. Other shops are expected to announce soon. A list of preferred race shops and their services is here.
In addition, the series offers cars for sale; if you are interested in purchasing an existing car or having a new car built, contact the series.
It is also possible to convert existing SCCA T4 or NC Playboy Cup cars to run in the Spec MX-5 Challenge.
Or, you may wish to build your own car.
Can I buy a Spec MX-5 race car from a series-approved builder?
Yes. The series has a list of experienced shops who will build Spec MX-5 v2 cars. The objective is to ensure high-quality and highly standardized cars that fit with the technical migration path (2019-2022) we have developed with Mazda, SCCA and NASA.
Are the rules published so that I can build a car to them?
The Spec MX-5 run in compliance with NASA and SCCA rules and classes. These classifications (STL for SCCA and ST5 for NASA) have published rules which can be found in the GCR of each organization. Mazda also offers detailed rules specific to the Spec MX-5 race car. Spec MX-5 Challenge publishes competition rules for the marquee events (East and West Regionals, National Series, Invitationals). See VTS rules here.
Can I run my NC MX-5 Cup race car in the series? My T4 car?
Yes, with modifications. NC-generation Mazda MX-5 SCCA T4 cars can be modified for series use and are invited to run the full Spec MX-5 Challenge series. Adaptation of T4 cars is straightforward.
NC-generation MX-5 Cup cars (“Playboy Cup” cars) can be easily converted to Spec MX-5 legal trim.
Can my donor car be either a convertible model or a PRHT (power retractable hard top) model?
Yes. PRHT cars must comply with all VTS rules. The PRHT car requires some panels to be trimmed and must use the same hardtop as the standard Spec MX-5 uses.
When you say the Spec MX-5 Challenge is a driver development series, what do you mean?
We view Spec MX-5 Challenge as a driver development series because it offers substantial prize money, often runs on “pro” tracks and is designed to feed into pro racing ladder systems if that is desired. Specifically, Spec MX-5 Challenge is designed to help drivers move from entry level club racing, particularly SRF, T4 or Spec Miata, toward Global MX-5 Cup, World Challenge and IMSA Continental Sports Car Challenge if desired. It is also designed for drivers who simply want to set goals for improvement and work toward them over their years in Spec MX-5 Challenge.
The big difference from club racing is the way Spec MX-5 Challenge is organized for driver development. Spec MX-5 Challenge focuses on substantial fields (10 cars or more), running a tightly specified car (to make the driver the key variable), with talented drivers who are not yet experienced pros. The cars generally have data and video systems to support data sharing and analysis.
There is also active support for driver development:
By creating national venues that draw top competitors, Spec MX-5 Challenge offers a simple way for drivers to benchmark themselves. This is often a critical first step in setting driver development goals. In addition, Series participants are offered coaching and data services, so that they get direct and immediate feedback on their driving practices from active participants in Spec MX-5 racing. This provides feedback from pro drivers with experience in the same spec car or the same track, which makes data more relevant and easier to understand. This kind of feedback is crucial to moving up the learning curve. The embedded model also allows for lower cost coaching than private 1:1 approaches.
As a driver development series, Spec MX-5 Challenge also provide significant publicity for drivers, with articles, videos and live streams to gain exposure within the racing community.
How many drivers will be competing?
50 cars competed in the 2020 series. Our objective is to have more than 75 drivers competing in Spec MX-5 during 2021. Each Marquee event is designed have 15-20 participants, with more than 20 attending the National Championship.
What license(s) are required?
An SCCA or a NASA full competition license will be required for all drivers depending on the event. Note that if you have either of these licenses, obtaining the other is relatively straightforward. If you are not currently licensed, the series may be able to arrange a licensing school through our partner Level Up Racing (SCCA). Early application is recommended.
Can I run individual races?
Yes! We will have a set of Spec MX-5 Challenge Invitational events for drivers who want to do single events with strong competition. Or you can pick a personally convenient group of events and tracks to run with either SCCA or NASA regionally.
What does the series do to ensure fair competition?
All cars run to a common rule set that has been carefully designed to generate fair competition. This rule set consists of SCCA rules for the STL class, NASA rules for the ST5 class, Mazda Motorsports technical rules for Spec MX-5 cars and Spec MX-5 Challenge rules for competition. For more information see the SCCA and NASA GCRs and this page for Spec MX-5 specific rules.
How close is the competition?
Drivers are recruited with the goal of having tight competition. In 2018, we had nine different winners in 22 races. The majority of the races in 2020 were decided by a few tenths of a second, including the championship. Races during the 2020 season were as close as 0.006 sec at the finish! We invite you to view some of the in-car videos from the 2018-2020 seasons to see how close the competition can be.
What are the marketing opportunities for my sponsors?
You may run sponsor logos on your car. The series will live stream from selected cars on most weekends, and drivers may also live stream each race from their cars. The series will post videos from selected cars after each race and publish race news in various media outlets. As with most racing, the key is for you and your sponsors to leverage their support and your success. Drivers are encouraged to promote their involvement in the series as well. Note that to keep costs down, this is not a spectator series.
Will the cars run with a hardtop?
Yes. Both the OEM removable hardtop and an optional aftermarket hardtop will be legal in 2020.
Are the shocks adjustable?
The spec Penske shock is a single adjustable design.
What size tire is used?
The spec tire for Spec MX-5 racing is the Toyo Proxes RR 235/40ZR17. This is required for marquee and SCCA events and is preferred for NASA ST5. The rain tire is a Toyo Proxes RA1 235/40ZR17.
I have 7″ OEM wheels. Can I run those?
Yes. The 17 x 7″ OEM wheel that was offered on street NC MX-5s is legal. There is an optional 8″ wheel as well. See the VTS.
I have an early (2006-2009) car. Is that front bumper cover legal?
Yes. Any year and design of bumper cover that was available on the NC is legal for 2021. See the VTS.