The Mazda MX-5 has been the car of choice for ST class competitors at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as the Mazda brigade seeks continued success in today’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge round in Monterey.
Freedom Autosport has claimed five consecutive wins at the famed California circuit, including the last three by Andrew Carbonell, with the team also having four straight 1-2 finishes.
The recent string of success at the 2.238-mile circuit, Freedom’s drivers say, is down to the fast and flowing nature of the circuit, with mid to high speed corners, which favor the MX-5’s lightweight design.
“It comes down to the strengths of the Mazda being such a good handling car at a track like Mazda Raceway where momentum wins the race,” Carbonell told Sportscar365.
“The track doesn’t pay huge dividends to cars with huge power because you’ve got elevation changes that actually helps us because from the Corkscrew, all the way down through [Turns] 9, 10 and into 11, it’s a downhill roller coaster.
“So regardless of power, our roll speed through [Turn] 9 really helps us through [Turn] 10. It helps us create enough of a gap into 11 so that they can’t really get to us.”
The car’s high redline of around 8,200 RPMs also aids in keeping momentum high around the track.
“We come out of the corners in the perfect gear, we get to enter the straightaways in the perfect gear and it really seems to suit the car,” said Freedom’s Danny Bender, who co-drives with Britt Casey Jr in the No. 27 entry.
John Doonan, Director of Motorsports, Mazda, explained that design of the MX-5 is part of what makes it different from other cars competing in the highly competitive ST class, despite the current generation car’s age.
“The Mazda MX-5 is all about efficiency and handling,” Doonan said.
“Where some would say to have an optimal sports car, you need more power. Mazda engineers have taken a different approach from the beginning of the Miata back in the late 80s – less is more.
“We’ve found ways to lighten the car and also make sure that there’s 50/50 weight distribution to perfection.
“We’ve developed this car for the street where we hope our owners get as much enjoyment out of it as our racers do.”
While Carbonell seeks his fourth straight Continental Tire Challenge class win at the track this afternoon, it will be tough to top the emotional triumph here last year, alongside Liam Dwyer.
Carbonell and the retired USMC Staff Sergeant took their MX-5 to class victory, with Aaron Denning, the former Sgt. who saved Dwyer’s life after the explosion in Afghanistan, having waved the green flag for the race.
This year, the pairing could have a tougher road ahead for repeat success, as Dwyer will roll off from 13th on the grid, in what’s been a somewhat challenging weekend for the MX-5s so far.
Balance of Performance changes to the ST class cars since this race in 2015 has seen the MX-5s not on the same dominant form it enjoyed in years past.
Chad McCumbee was the highest MX-5 qualifier and will start the two-hour and 30-minute race from third in his No. 25 Mazda, with Bender the next best, qualifying in 10th.
While not the quickest car on single-lap runs, the MX-5s — which generally excel on longer runs — shouldn’t be discounted for the race, as the manufacturer seeks an unprecedented sixth straight class win this afternoon.