Spec Mazda MX-5 Challenge celebrates first season
When the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup switched from the third-generation MX-5 (NC) to the fourth generation (ND), it meant there were a lot of the old MX-5 Cup cars on the market. Some of the MX-5 Cup teams took their cars to World Challenge, either upgrading the engine and aero to run Touring Car – Patrick Gallagher won the championship in 2016 – or leaving them nearly as is and racing in TCA, as 2016 champ Elivan Goulart did. Others were sold to find a home in SCCA or NASA club racing, where they have raced in Touring 4, Super Touring Lite (SCCA) or Performance Touring (NASA). Others, meanwhile, sat idle.
Tom Martin of Winding Road Racing and Todd Lamb of ATL Speedworks saw an opportunity. Both had raced and run teams in MX-5 Cup and knew the potential of the cars. They had an idea, and then came the final piece of the puzzle.
“It was 70 percent grand strategy and 30 percent serendipity, like a lot of things in life,” explains Martin. “We were running Global MX-5 Cup and enjoying that, and I can go on and on about what a wonderful series that is. But what we were finding was an unmet need in the market for a product that was somewhat less expensive than Global MX-5 Cup but had some of the pro features that are currently missing from other fantastic classes like Spec Miata, which is organized as club racing and mostly done regionally. The serendipity part was the opportunity to purchase a group of ex-Skip Barber MX-5 cars that Todd Lamb and I were looking at. I thought, ‘Why don’t we buy these and put together a series that fills the gap between Spec Miata and Global MX-5 Cup?’ So that’s what we did.”
The series ran its inaugural season as a full-season-only, arrive-and-drive series, but one with a big prize for the champion: a scholarship that would get a driver a couple of weekends in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. Peter Ensor, a Teen Mazda Challenge/Spec Miata participant, won that at the grand finale at Road Atlanta where the East and Central championships came together for an invitational shootout.