Mazda Spec Miata Penske Shocks Upgrade on Way to NASA & SCCA
Posted 08-14-2018 11:14 AM
Posted 08-14-2018 11:22 AM
IRVINE, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2018) -- Since its inception nearly 20 years ago, Mazda’s Spec Miata (SM) has grown to become one of the most popular and competitive classes within the Sports Car Club of America and National Auto Sport Association. The low-cost, high-excitement platform has drawn thousands of racers, and that will continue with today’s announcement that Mazda Motorsports and Penske Racing Shocks have teamed up to produce a new, spec shock package to enhance the SM racing experience in the coming seasons.
In a recent dry- and wet-weather session at Carolina Motorsports Park, pro drivers Joel Miller, John Dean and Randy Pobst tested Penske’s race-engineered shocks head-to-head with offerings from several other brands over four days. Four different versions of the Mazda Miata were tested, and runs were made on Toyo and Hoosier tires. Test drivers didn’t shy away from curbing, running the cars to simulate qualifying and long runs. In all, 72 different combinations of driver, damper and tires were tested.
Results show the new Penske shocks to be similar in qualifying lap times compared with shocks currently used by the SM field. But on overall pace, particularly starting on the fifth lap, the Penske product showed brilliance. And on 30-minute to hour-long runs, where the current spec’s lap times slowed by three-plus seconds on the high-wear track surface, the Penskes never fell off to even two seconds compared to qualifying lap times. An in-depth look at the test findings is available at the Mazda Motorsports website.
“The Penske Racing Shocks package is a major step forward for Spec Miata, upgrading the cars from an underdamped street shock to an uncompromised race piece intended solely for the track,” Pobst said after testing. “The shocks allowed the tires to maintain more grip because the suspension worked properly, rather than constantly crashing down on the bump rubbers. With every car, driver, tire and track condition, the Penske provided superior control."
Miller and Dean added that the Penske shocks had a ride quality that was very, very good. The damper had great compliance and soaked up exit curbing, and did not skip the car. Tire life had a predictable, linear and subtle fall-off because of good compliance. Tires also had a large window of operation and never gave a knife-edge feeling at stint’s end.
Josh Smith, Mazda Motorsports Technical Specialist, noted that the “street shock” currently used in SM is not entirely ideal for racing. The off-the-shelf shock, while cost-effective, was not initially designed to handle the spring rate on race cars and sometimes has trouble “dampening” movement. This causes the suspension to bottom out, which impacts wear-and-tear on other components of the car, including tires, hubs, bearings and subframes.
“The Spec Miata community will receive tremendous value from the new Penske shock in terms of drivability, consistency, improved areas of compliance, longevity, and great long-term value for the cost,” said David Cook, Business Development Manager for Mazda Motorsports. “This new shock doesn’t raise the performance of any single SM generation car over another. What it does accomplish is to enhance the SM platform as a whole, and bring in a shock partner interested in servicing customers with trackside support and contingency awards.”
According to Aaron Lambert, Penske Racing Shocks Director of Competition, another round of testing and honing of the new shocks will be conducted next month. But ultimately, Penske Racing Shocks will provide an offering that competitors -- novice or pro -- can drive consistently. With the new shock comes a new upper mount that uses a spherical bearing and a new bump stop designed specifically for the application. Issues caused by riding on bump stops will be eliminated, and stress to other parts minimized so a race car’s longevity can be maximized.
The new shock price will be set at $198.74 apiece, with the complete upper mount/bump stop kit retailing at $249.90. Parts will be available exclusively through Mazda Motorsports with a total cost for conversion; including four shocks, top mount, bump stops and lower spherical mounts for less than $1,050. Unlike the current Spec Miata shock, the Penske will be tamper-proof, and rebuildable through Penske at $100/shock. It is recommended that shocks be inspected by Penske after 100 hours of track use to determine whether a rebuild would be valuable.
“Penske Racing Shocks is the world leader in suspension technology and proud to be the majority supplier in F1, NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA DPi, NHRA Pro Stock, and now Spec Miata,” Lambert said. “With such a rigorous schedule, high volume of competitors and demand for equality, the Spec Miata series is a perfect platform to show off performance, reliability and repeatability, which is why Penske Racing Shocks is honored to be part of this racing class.”
Both NASA and SCCA have approved the new Penske shock for SM competition beginning Jan. 1, 2019. It is anticipated the new shocks will be available starting November 2018 through Mazda Motorsports. The new shocks will not be immediately required for NASA or SCCA competition. Both sanctioning bodies will communicate with competitors at a later date regarding a sunset timeline for the shock package currently in use.
About Mazda Motorsports
Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24) program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy (#MRTI) is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Penske Racing Shocks
Penske Racing Shocks is the world leader in suspension technology. Penske Racing Shocks strives to supply the latest technology to all forms of auto racing, and is the major supplier in the world’s largest markets. From asphalt road racing at its highest levels in F1, NASCAR or IndyCar; to dirt tracks across the USA, Penske Racing Shocks is the industry leading manufacturer. More champions choose Penske Racing Shocks over any other brand. The engineering staff and industry leading technical support of Penske Racing Shocks has led to numerous championships in all forms of motorsports.
NASA was founded in 1991 on the premise of providing motorsport competition programs that allow owners of both racecars and high-performance street-driven vehicles to enjoy the full-performance capabilities of their cars in a safe and controlled environment.
The Sports Car Club of America®, Inc., founded in 1944, is a 67,500-member motorsports organization that incorporates all facets of autocross, rally and road racing at both Club and professional levels. With headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, the SCCA annually sanctions over 2,000 events through its 116 Regions and subsidiary divisions. Much of the SCCA's activities are made possible with support from the following Official Partners: Chevrolet, the Official Truck of the SCCA; Hawk Performance, the Official Brake Products of SCCA; Mobil 1, the Official Oil of SCCA; Sunoco, the Official Fuel of SCCA; and Tire Rack, the Official Tire Retailer of SCCA. To learn more, please visit www.scca.com.
Posted 08-14-2018 11:28 AM
Spec Miata: Suspension Evolving
Penske Racing Shocks will be the new supplier of shocks for Spec Miata, giving competitors a proper racing shock and the benefits that come with it. For a detailed outline of the process, click here.
When Spec Miata was introduced nearly 20 years ago, there were but a few who realized what it would become. What started out as a cheap, simple spec class for regional racing has evolved into one of the most popular classes in SCCA and NASA club racing. It spawned a professional series and has vaulted many drivers to the professional ranks. And on top of it all, nationally competitive Spec Miatas regularly sell in the $20-30,000 range – a far cry from its humble beginnings.
When introduced, the Bilstein shock chosen for the class was the right shock at the right time. Mass-produced, readily available and inexpensive, it was a good idea for a regional racing class where everybody had to use the same shock. But much in shock technology has advanced over the past two decades. As Spec Miatas have gotten faster and the tires have improved, the shortcomings of a street shock on a race car were becoming clear. Further, and perhaps much more critically, officials from both of the major SM sanctioning bodies were hearing of shortages, with shock availability being limited for extended periods of time. It was time for a change.
“The shock absorber was the sore thumb sticking out on the Spec Miata,” says Randy Pobst, the first person to win a national championship in a Miata in 1992 and one of the test drivers for the replacement shock test. “It was the one thing needed on the car. It’s not that the Bilsteins were a bad shock, but they are a street shock, which made them far too soft for racing. I have always felt that the car was under-damped – it needed more control and it caused the car to bang down on the bump stops and snap oversteer or suddenly understeer.”
Mazda Motorsports, with SCCA and NASA on board, put out a Request for Proposal, and the shock manufacturers answered. With several wanting a shot at providing the Spec Miata shock, a four-day test was arranged at Carolina Motorsports Park to sample shocks form seven different manufacturers. Long Road Racing provided the logistics and management, Panic Motorsports provided the cars and support, and Pobst, Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup champion John Dean II and Mazda factory driver Joel Miller provided the test driving and feedback. With Mazda Motorsports, SCCA and NASA tech officials and many others on hand, Penske Racing shocks was eventually chosen as the replacement shock supplier for Spec Miata, beginning in 2019.
“Spec Miata is moving from a street shock to a race shock, and this is a much-needed advancement,” declares Pobst. “The car doesn’t feel soft anymore; it was controlled. This shock package will benefit all drivers, but I think it will benefit the average or beginning driver even more because of the level of control. The car is friendlier and handles better. The car is not as finicky, and the setup won’t be, either. The cars will be able to run at a higher ride height, the benefit being the suspension will be able to actually work.”
The initial cost for the set of Penskes, including new top mounts and lower spherical bearings, will be under $1,050. At $198.74 a piece, the Penske shocks come at a higher price point than the old setup, but over the long run the costs should more than balance out due to longer service life of the shocks themselves, plus an extended life for other suspension components. Penske suggests an inspection after 100 hours, which is about 25 typical race weekends, although the service life may be longer. In addition, the shocks can be rebuilt, at a cost comparable to a new Bilstein.
“It’s a bigger initial up-front cost for the competitors, but after that, it will be a lower cost to own,” explains David Cook, Manager of Mazda Motorsports Business Development. “By moving to a properly damped racing shock from Penske, it causes less stress on the car, on the hubs, on the tires and on other components. Our racers are going to save that money on reduced wear on other components, as well as the shock itself will last much longer. A lot of people are replacing the Bilsteins every year.”
It goes beyond the product itself. Penske Racing Shocks will be offering contingency, plus trackside support at bigger events. Production is also based in the U.S., so parts supplies should be steady.
“Our confidence for continued supply is as high as it can be,” says Cook. “Penske’s really coming to the table as a partner, not just a supplier, by providing contingency awards, trackside support and more. Penske’s sole focus is motorsport, and it really wants to penetrate the club racing market and is going to work hard for it.”
Aaron Lambert, Director of Competition for Penske, notes the company’s involvement at every level of racing, from ATV and motocross to short track to sports cars and up to Indy cars and Formula 1.
“Penske Racing Shocks has been doing a lot of homework in trying to make our products more efficient so they can be utilized in more of the grassroots style racing,” Lambert says. “We are so proud to take this huge step with Mazda; we feel all involved will benefit greatly. Whether it’s NASCAR, IndyCar, or numerous short tracks around the country, our customers will be the first to tell you it’s our at-track presence and experience that separates us. Spec Miata customers can expect that same support.
“All of these shocks will be hand built and tested in our facility in Reading, Penn. – this is where our factory is located and where our team assembles all of our racing dampers,” Lambert continues. “We are the majority supplier in F1, NASCAR and IndyCar, to name a few. The same techs that build and work with our teams around the world will be there to service and build the Spec Miata dampers, as well as give technical and setup support to the racers.”
The shocks and mounts will be available no later than November 2018 – possibly as early as October – in time for racers to acquire, install and test before the January SCCA Majors and NASA races, although the shocks will be allowed but not be required then.
You can order now. Call 800.435.2508, or go to the parts store (tab in top right corner of homepage at MazdaMotorsports.com. This competition part is available to racers and non-racers.
The kit (fronts & rear shocks + top mount kits for complete car set): 0000-04-5720-KT (price $1,044.86)
Front Penske SM Shock: 0000-04-5275 (price: $198.74 per shock)
Rear Penske SM Shock: 0000-04-5276 (price: $198.74 per shock)
Top Mount/Bump Stop Kit: 0000-04-5277 ($249.90 per complete car set kit)
Don’t forget Mazda Motorsports’ free UPS ground shipping offer for orders exceeding $1,000. Click here for more info.
Look for more details on mazdamotorsports.com as the availability date nears, including information on installation and setup, as well as some insight into the process of choosing Penske as the supplier.
Posted 08-14-2018 11:29 AM
I am looking forward to this! The cost to upgrade from these crappy bilsteins that we can't even order is not a huge deal in the long run. Hoping they help save money on wheel bearings, hubs, and tire wear since we won't be slamming over on the tires so hard. And, maybe the car will finally drive more like a proper race car.
Also. Penskes! Heck yeah.
Thank you Mazda, SCCA, and nasa! This has been something many have been wishing for for a long time.
Posted 08-14-2018 11:53 AM
- steveracer and Andy Mitchell like this
Posted 08-14-2018 12:42 PM
This a slam dunk.. Great job by all involved! Unfortunate for those of us that have recently bought shocks, but no doubt this was the right decision.
Just make sure they spec a ride height or we will be doing the same thing all while looking like hover crafts and 8 degrees camber We will soon be checking compliance on inner fenders as that will be the next thing people manipulate to get the cars lower. let's not go down that road
- William Keeling, steveracer and lillyweld like this
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Posted 08-14-2018 12:54 PM
Required for Runoffs, optional throughout the season. What Jim said about ride height. The Road Racing Board (formerly CRB) will be watching the new shocks closely and there is a letter in the SMAC system concerning ride height. The SMAC may spec a ride height, but until the shocks are actually on some cars, we are not sure if that is necessary.
- 38bfast likes this
Posted 08-14-2018 01:26 PM
I’m all for a better shock! But damn, I just got 2 new fronts and the “real” Fatcat bump kit and installed them last week. $500 just pissed away.
Appreciate everyone's pain but don't forget that Mazda is replenishing their inventory of Bilstein's with "pre-shock change decision" order commitments with I am sure, many current back orders probably to be cancelled.
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