Freedom Autosport is set for a hiatus from Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competition as Mazda evaluates its future options in the transitioning series.
The longtime Mazda squad, which fielded multiple MX-5 cars in the ST class in recent years, will forgo the final season of the category, according to a team spokesperson, with a number of its drivers having found rides elsewhere.
It’s included Stevan McAleer, Chad McCumbee, who have joined the GS ranks with Bodymotion Racing and Multimatic Motorsports, respectively, and Tom Long and Britt Casey Jr. teaming up in an Audi RS 3 LMS TCR car entered by Compass Racing.
According to Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan, the phasing out of the ST class, along with Mazda ambassador’s Liam Dwyer’s surgery that’s put the former Marine Staff Sgt. on the sidelines for the next six months, contributed to the decision.
“We’re working on a long-term vision but the ‘NC’ MX-5, the third-gen car, isn’t relevant to our broader audience marketing so that’s a transition,” Doonan told Sportscar365.
“Also, Liam’s gone through a personal transition and he’s a big part of that program, and some of the other guys, with Patrick Gallagher taking his MX-5 scholarship, which is fantastic because of the relationship with Multimatic.
“We’re working on a long-term plan there. It’s a transition year for us purely because of the platform of the race cars that are available.”
Doonan said they studied adapting the Global MX-5 car to ST regulations although ultimately opted against it, as it would have been eligible for a single year.
“It wasn’t necessarily the right car to bring here in the short-term,” he said. “We’ve studied that but it’s got to be the right thing and the right time.
“We’re also watching with a keen eye on the TCR program and see how that goes.”
Mazda TCR Still Under Evaluation
With the launch the class into Continental Tire Challenge, as well as the platform’s adoption in Pirelli World Challenge, Doonan said that a Mazda TCR project remains a distinct possibility for the future.
“I wouldn’t really have considered TCR but we’ve had the success we’ve had with MX-5 Cup cars and we’ve sold chassis 170,” he said. “We can sell a global platform race car so that’s why TCR is attractive and we’ll continue to study that.
“I hope we can be part of a vehicle launch and tie that into motorsports so that we can support the overall brand.”
Doonan said no definitive timeline has been established on a possible program, although indicated it would likely be based on the Mazda3, as it’s the only car in Mazda’s lineup that fits into the TCR regulations.
“Supporting the customers globally is something I want to make sure we’re completely ready for,” he said. “We’ve done that with MX-5 Cup and they started a series in Japan.
“For TCR, it’s very important that we have all the infrastructure in place to support the customers, whether we use third parties or some of our Mazda regions globally.”