Despite no pro racing aspirations, opportunities still come knocking for this Spec Miata racer.
Like many racers, Alex Bolanos inherited the racing bug at a young age from his father, who wrenched on Corvettes for club racers in his hometown of Miami, Fla. By the time he got his first driver’s license, Bolanos was regularly competing in autocross events. Now, the 33-year-old Bolanos, who works full time as an operations manager for a pharmaceutical and biotech company in Pompano Beach, Fla., is a regular force in the southeast regional Spec Miata scene.
For 10 years, with his father as lead mechanic, Bolanos has been enjoying success in Spec Miata. His Momo-liveried No. 57 Mazda Miata MX-5 has been a fixture at grassroots club racing events all along the Atlantic seaboard as well as the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. In the 2015 Runoffs at Daytona International Speedway, Bolanos was on the podium in third place in the Spec Miata race.
Last year, Bolanos sold his Spec Miata car and is now piloting a racecar from Autotechnik Racing. It’s taken him almost no time to get up to speed behind the wheel of his new steed. At the most recent SCCA Hoosier Super Tour stop at Sebring International Raceway on Jan. 13-15, 2017, Bolanos finished in second place on Saturday, and then took the Sunday win.
“I didn’t have a teammate for that weekend, so I struggled a little bit in terms of finding a group to run with,” says Bolanos of the Sebring circuit, where drafting on the long straights is a must. “On Saturday, I was in the front group and managed to lead for two laps. But being in the lead cooled the car too much, which hurts performance and I couldn’t overcome the guys who were working together. But, I still managed to finish in second place, right on [race winner] Jim Drago’s bumper.
“On Sunday, I put on a set of fresh tires and that made things easier. I was able to work with some of the guys like Jim [Drago], Todd Lamb, and Michael Carter, and knowing that I had the pace, I was able to drive away in the end for the win,” he adds.
Bolanos began his road racing life at a Skip Barber Racing School, one that also happened to have newly minted Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Jordan and Ricky Taylor as students. From there he went on to compete in the Skip Barber Regional Series throughout Florida where he won the championship, thereby earning a free race in the Skip Barber National Championship. He opted to race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It was at that race where he crossed path with another future star in 2016, Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.
“That’s when I realized that some people are career racecar drivers and some people aren’t,” recalls Bolanos. “I was just lucky to be there, but Rossi was clearly on a path. He being home-schooled, learning languages, and racing and training in England. I think that’s where my aspirations to be a pro ended,” he adds with a laugh. “It was definitely a learning experience.”
While Bolanos isn’t making a career of racing, it is clearly an all-consuming avocation that has seen him take advantage of every opportunity he’s earned. Despite his success in the Skip Barber Series, he knew that open-wheel formula cars weren’t in his future, so he focused on sports car racing, primarily in the Spec Miata class.
In 2014, Bolanos won the NASA Spec Miata Championship, which opened some doors to racing in the professional ranks with Irish Mike Racing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge for multiple rounds.
“I’ll race anything, anytime, anywhere, but I’ll always continue in Spec Miata,” he declares. “It’s so competitive, and when the pros come to race in Spec Miata, they have to work hard to be competitive, which is such a good yardstick for people like me. When you beat them, it can create other opportunities in racing.”
At his age, Bolanos is on the younger end of Spec Miata competitors. As he says, he’ll never stop racing Spec Miata, and it’s easy to see that he will continue to be a force for the foreseeable future.