IRVINE, Calif. — As part of the longest sanctioned road-race in North America, the National Auto Sport Association (NASA)’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) entered a Mazda MX-5 Miata prepared to SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup specifications. The car, driven by three of the company’s dealers, finished fourth in the E1 class and 35th overall out of 83 cars that started the race.
“An event like this proves the real mettle of drivers, crew and cars,” said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for MNAO. “There’s no test in the world like endurance road-racing to prove the strength and durability of a car. With Mazda MX-5 Miatas and RX-8s running in four of the race’s six classes, there were more Mazdas entered in the race than any other brand of vehicle – and the reason is because they’re fast and reliable. The final result saw Mazdas take 10 of the possible 12 trophy positions, and a Mazda on the top-spot of the podium for all four of the classes they contested.”
Running in the E1 class against competitors from Acura, BMW and Scion, Mazda’s entry was driven by three of the company’s dealers, Richard Fisher (The Autobarn Mazda, Chicago), Pat Lind (Carousel Motors, Iowa City, Iowa) and Taz Harvey (Dublin Mazda, Dublin, Calif.). All have extensive racing experience, and both Fisher and Harvey had competed in the event before, also in a Mazda MX-5.
The race was anything but easy for the team, however. During testing on Friday, a harmless spin led to another competitor hitting the car’s left-front wheel, heavily damaging the suspension. The crew fixed the damage and sent the car back out, only to have it return 10 minutes later with a shattered back window. The glass was cleaned up, but time had run out for practice and qualifying, meaning the car had to start at the back of the pack for Saturday’s 11:00 am race-start.
The race started without incident and the car was running well, stopping only for scheduled fuel-fills, and driver and tire changes. Just before dusk Saturday, the car was again involved in an off-track excursion that this time damaged the front windshield. The decision was made to remove the windshield, and the team soldiered on for the next 18 hours with no front or back glass in the car! At about 2:00 AM, the car once again called to the pits for an unscheduled stop, requiring the replacement of the differential. The MX-5 ran flawlessly to the finish at 12:00 noon on Sunday.
Fisher, Harvey and Lind finished the race in fourth place in the E1 class, with Harvey driving the car under the checkered flag just one lap shy of a podium finish – after 576 laps and more than 1,700 miles completed.
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you’ll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the world is Spec Miata, with more than 2,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America’s racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda’s involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world’s premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.