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Elevating the third-generation MX-5


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#1
Johnny D

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The NC Miata could be the ideal solution for club racers

 

The latest generation of Miata, the ND, is still gaining steam; it’s extremely popular in autocross, and nearly 200 Global MX-5 Cup cars have been produced. The first generations of Miata, the NA and NB, are probably the most raced models of car worldwide, and Spec Miata remains one of the most popular classes in SCCA and NASA. Meanwhile, the third-generation MX-5, the NC, hasn’t seemed to achieve that level of popularity among racers. But that’s about to change.

 

The first iteration of MX-5 Cup was popular, and many cars were built for the class. The NC has won championships in Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and TCA. Danny Bender won the 2014 Touring 4 national championship in SCCA club racing with an NC, and Danny Steyn is the most recent SCCA national champion in an NC, having won the 2018 SCCA Super Touring Lite title. On top of that, the Spec MX-5 Challenge series had a successful first season in 2018 and is growing for the coming race season. The heart of the NC, the MZR engine, powers everything from SCCA Formula Enterprises 2 and Prototype racers up to (in turbocharged MZR-R) form, Indy Lights cars and Mazda’s RT24-P Daytona Prototype International car. With all of that, though, there are a lot of NC-based racecars sitting idle.

 

Consequently, Mazda Motorsports sees an opportunity to get more NCs on track with a national spec class based on the third-generation platform, although it should be noted that the idea is to supplement – not replace – Spec Miata.

 

The potential exists for a platform that could not only be raced in a spec club racing class but also in SCCA T4, NASA ST5 and the Spec MX-5 Challenge with only minor alterations. To that end, Mazda Motorsports is not only studying the best way to build a spec NC, but is also offering additional incentives to people already racing the cars.

 

“We believe it’s time to bolster the NC and give it additional support,” explains David Cook, Manager, Business Development at Mazda Motorsports. “If you run an NC Miata, you’re going to get an additional contingency bonus to help support the NC owner in one of many ways, working toward a spec class with NASA and SCCA.”

 

Those bonuses will come in the form of the new parts points for T4 and ST5 racers. In addition, Mazda Motorsports is offering extra contingency to T4 NC racers who compete in individual races in the Spec MX-5 Challenge. That payout will include both cash and parts points.

 

With the aim of a spec class, Mazda Motorsports has been working with SCCA and NASA leadership and rules committees to build a car that meets several criteria. The next step is to build a test mule.

 

Josh Smith, Mazda Motorsports’ specialist for technical development, is helping build that first car. “It will be an exciting, fun car to drive – that is the first of four pillars we have in mind. Techable is another pillar, which is very important in a spec series. We want to provide a roadmap for tech procedures and specs that are very defined – that it’s as black-and-white as we can possibly make it. Affordability is one of the major considerations when people go to build a club racing-level car. And reliable; we don’t want to put together a spec package that fits the first three criteria but is a ticking time bomb. It’s not fun to repair it every weekend, so we’re trying to build a lot of reliability and durability into the platform.”

 

The target price for a complete build is around $30,000. Current NC MX-5 race cars for sale range from around $20,000 for a former MX-5 Cup car up to $27,500 for the Runoffs pole sitting T4 MX-5. These prices are in the ballpark of a nationally competitive Spec Miata. Mazda Motorsports is currently in conversations with shops and engine builders to nail down specs and make sure the NC can meet its goals, with the idea of having a test mule running in races soon.

 

“We need to get an NC in a close-to-identical version of the spec running around in SCCA’s Touring category,” says Cook. “We want to make sure that it’s a competitive car in Touring and in ST5 in NASA as we build critical mass to establish a national class within both NASA and SCCA. And we’re excited to be closely working with the Spec MX-5 Challenge organization in this endeavor. We’ve got enhanced contingency, and we’re going to be coming out with significant price discounts to penetrate the grassroots market with an affordable race car so they can buy it.”

 

Look for updates to the spec NC process and progress later in the year. And if you have an NC sitting idle, now might be a good time to think about getting it race ready and back out on track!


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#2
LarryKing

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#3
Tom Sager

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T4 should be a larger class than it is but cost probably keeps some people away.  For many T4 cars (non-Mazda's), tires are a big cost.  SCCA should consider moving T4 (the entire class) to a 200TW tire as a cost cutting measure.  If there is to be a spec NC class, getting a lower cost and much longer lasting tire approved at the very inception of the class would be wise IMO.  


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#4
OrangeCrush86

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I would prefer if they just called it a replacement for SM. Most SM cars are now 20 years old so it makes sense to start a transition.

 

That said, I'm only interested if it has the hard top on. :)


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#5
Danica Davison

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T4 should be a larger class than it is but cost probably keeps some people away.  For many T4 cars (non-Mazda's), tires are a big cost.  SCCA should consider moving T4 (the entire class) to a 200TW tire as a cost cutting measure.  If there is to be a spec NC class, getting a lower cost and much longer lasting tire approved at the very inception of the class would be wise IMO.

 

 

I agree with you. Spec Miata should also be 200 TW


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#6
Jim Drago

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I would prefer if they just called it a replacement for SM. Most SM cars are now 20 years old so it makes sense to start a transition.

 

That said, I'm only interested if it has the hard top on. :)

It will only be a replacement if/when the bulk of the faster guys switch.  I don't see that happening anytime soon as would be slitting or own throats as the cars would have no resale.. see 1.6 cars now..   Furthermore if SM was only 90-93 cars now, we would still have plenty of cars and parts to run the class... So using that time line.. we have 10 years plus easily. Then start pricing body parts on the 06 up cars they are ridiculously expensive.  IMO the 99-05 is a better car than the 06/15 car as well. I have raced one in T4.. I didn't really care for it all that much 


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#7
FTodaro

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T4 should be a larger class than it is but cost probably keeps some people away.  For many T4 cars (non-Mazda's), tires are a big cost.  SCCA should consider moving T4 (the entire class) to a 200TW tire as a cost cutting measure.  If there is to be a spec NC class, getting a lower cost and much longer lasting tire approved at the very inception of the class would be wise IMO.  

Not really on the point of this thread but you bring up a good point. Hoosier is redesigning our tire in SM for next year. Why not go to  a 200 TW option, we will all have the same disadvantage and the cost will come down significantly. The endurance guys are getting along OK on 200TW. Hoosier will open up an additional market to spread the cost out to include Endurance. 

 

Do we really need all the grip of the SM7?


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#8
OrangeCrush86

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Not really on the point of this thread but you bring up a good point. Hoosier is redesigning our tire in SM for next year. Why not go to  a 200 TW option, we will all have the same disadvantage and the cost will come down significantly. The endurance guys are getting along OK on 200TW. Hoosier will open up an additional market to spread the cost out to include Endurance. 

 

Do we really need all the grip of the SM7?

 

Yes. It makes the car more fun than it probably should be.


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#9
Johnny D

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Do we really need all the grip of the SM7?

 


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#10
Jim Drago

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Yes. It makes the car more fun than it probably should be.

 

I ran the hankook in chump car which most are telling me isn't as good as the bridgestones.. Seat of the pants the car was equally as fun to race.  I think if we are all on the same tire, short of adding 2 seconds or so to the lap time, the fun factor will not change at all. I was thoroughly impressed by the 200 tw tire. I went in thinking it was going to suck, it didn't. I was impressed.

 

In a spec class, it makes sense.  BTW if you ask Hoosier what TW our SM7 is.. You will be quite surprised :)  I forget the number, but way higher than I thought


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#11
Ron Alan

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With the subsidized/reduced cost we get the SM7 tire at...not sure the upfront cost is a whole lot less. I think i paid $150-$160 a tire for BFGoodrich? I know there were some in the $120-$130 range. I guess the big benefit would be how long you can drive them for? But then what if we shave them :)


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#12
gerglmuff2

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no way NCs take over spec miata, they didn't make enough of them, not enough of them turned into race cars etc etc ... spec miata has a long life ahead of it, as long as mazda is willing to keep supporting the series as well. penske wouldn't buy into a dying series either. 


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#13
Camaro67racer

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This is going to be an interesting project for Mazda, SCCA, and NASA. Unfortunately, it really needed to be started about 5 years ago, knowing it takes several years for an amateur series to take off. I've told many friends that it was as if Mazda never gave any thought to the NC chassis past the original MX-5 Cup, a Pro series. Now they realized they need to continue selling parts and are scrambling to put a plan together (Mazda first announced at 2017 Indy Runoffs Banquet that a plan was coming soon, but here we are still waiting). I get that donor cars are now really "cheap", but it's still going to be 3+ years from now if/when this is even something to consider jumping into.

 

One of the biggest hurdles is, how can you make a case for building a $30K+ NC-series car over an SM, especially when SM is still so strong?

Sure, the NC series will appeal to some that don't want the ultra-competitiveness and yes, (ahem) rough reputation of SM. But if you really want to race, it's hard to pass on the current, excellent state of SM. I know, because I already made this decision -- I started racing in an SM locally, then I gave up on the class after finally acquiring a pro motor just to have Head Gate happen and require me to spend more money. After a year without a race car, I gave T4 a try in a 2010 MX-5 for two seasons. Now I'm back to SM.)

 

I'll say that the NC chassis really is a great car. I really enjoyed driving it after you get used to the steering. Upgrade a few things like wheel bearings and they are mechanically robust cars, as long as you're in an NC2 2009+ (which then brings the build cost up because those donors aren't as cheap). But, for those that aren't familiar with the NC as a race car, there are some things that need to be considered...

 

1) You can't bump draft in the NC. Really, one or two attempts will wind up costing you around $1,000 in parts alone. The nose of the NC is soft, bumper covers ($530 with racer discount) will crack, headlight assemblies are $350-$500 each and break easily, grilles break with the bumper covers and so on. With so many less NCs being sold compared to the NA/NB, used parts are much harder to come by and a lot more expensive.

2) Tires. A set of Hoosier A7/R7 is over $1,200 a set. Having a spec tire would hopefully bring that cost down, but it was difficult when we were camber limited by the T4 rules to a max of 3 deg. A track like Gingerman would cord the shoulders in 3 sessions. Also, note that T4 requires use of the 17-inch factory wheel. What will Spec series do? Move to a lighter and more robust wheel? The '06-'08 wheels do crack.

3) Brakes. The NC is a heavier car and not only absolutely needs cooling ducts, but goes through brakes/pads a lot faster. Even with cooling, the front rotors will heat crack badly and can warp, too. It all adds up in running/maintenance costs.

4) Weight. I'm struggling to see how they are going to make the cars able to run multiple series/classes in SCCA and NASA, when the required weight of the car in T4 is so high. I'm roughly 210 lbs and I had to run 170 lbs of ballast in the passenger side of the car AND have a minimum of 4 gallons of fuel to make the min weight of 2,750. So, yes the Spec series cars can be much lighter than 2,750, but you aren't going to want to run the car in other SCCA and NASA classes due to having to change so much in the car setup. Brings me to my next point...

5) The NC is MUCH more time consuming and a pain to setup. This could potentially be solved with different parts, but given the NC front suspension design, we had to jack the car up and remove the wheel for every spring height/corner weight adjustment, then put the tire back on, lower, bounce, and remeasure. There is no room to get the spanner wrench in to move the shock collar because of the upper A-arm.

6) The "cheap" NC donor cars are still only the first two years of the car, 2006-2007. All of the 2006-2008 cars have motors with internals that are not as strong and will blow up. So you'll have to factor that into the cost. Additionally, the early transmissions are also not as robust as the 2009+. Upgrading an old trans to the '09+ internals can be done, but it's over $500 in (discounted) parts alone, plus labor. Heck a 6-spd trans core is going to cost you roughly $700-$1,000.

 

Yes, the NC is a great car to race, I really loved mine, but the whole concept is going to differ from SM. The NC was successful in PRO series, but when it comes to amateur racing, there are certainly challenges that I look forward to see how they are addressed. Parts costs so much more and break easier. Yes, Mazda can supplement that for a bit, but for how long? How much more are you willing to spend on your race car? Amateur racing is already expensive.

I truly hope Mazda is successful, but I see SM as staying strong for a while yet and was a factor in making the switch back to SM.


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#14
Steve Scheifler

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Well, you’ve talked me out of it!
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6) The "cheap" NC donor cars are still only the first two years of the car, 2006-2007. All of the 2006-2008 cars have motors with internals that are not as strong and will blow up. So you'll have to factor that into the cost. Additionally, the early transmissions are also not as robust as the 2009+. Upgrading an old trans to the '09+ internals can be done, but it's over $500 in (discounted) parts alone, plus labor. Heck a 6-spd trans core is going to cost you roughly $700-$1,000.

 

I have rebuilt some NC 6 speeds there was an upgrade in the 2009 + box, the NC box will be more costly to rebuild than the NA/NB box. The Pre 2009 box did not hold up well.


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#16
Richard Astacio

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I actually enjoyed racing the NC, took a little getting use to the abs system and also the power steering. I am certainly paying close attention to this class and intrigued. 


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#17
chris haldeman

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This is 1 of my 100 questions. Mazda says this class is not designed to replace spec Miata but to supplement it.....
Where do they think the drivers would come from???
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OrangeCrush86

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This is 1 of my 100 questions. Mazda says this class is not designed to replace spec Miata but to supplement it.....
Where do they think the drivers would come from???

 

They could get the Global guys that have ran out of money?  :noidea:


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#19
38bfast

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I say skip the NC and jump right to the ND
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#20
Camaro67racer

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This is 1 of my 100 questions. Mazda says this class is not designed to replace spec Miata but to supplement it.....
Where do they think the drivers would come from???

Ding, ding. Exactly.

So you have the choice between racing around for a couple of years with 3 to 6 other cars in your class or you choose SM and mix it up with 50-60+ others in your own run group.

Speaking of, where do you think they will place this new class in the run groups? Think they will insert it into the SM field? Try and dangle a carrot to the target audience?  :scratchchin: Sure seems like a good way to disrupt SM.


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