I finally got the opportunity to attend my first banquet for the Mazda MX-5 race series winners. While standing on a podium and accepting a trophy for 1st place at Road Atlanta has been a dream of mine, that’s not exactly how this dinner event played out.
Marking the culmination of another year of competitive racing, the 2015 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup / Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge Banquet acknowledges and awards skilled drivers, comprised of both women and men who this year ranged in age from 16 to 42, for their consistency and improvement during the 2015 season. Over the years, the race series has trained and propelled aspiring racers from “zero to hero” status, with many proving successful in top-tiered professional motorsports, such as NASCAR, Indycar, NHRA, and even Formula 1.
During the award ceremony, the mood was lighthearted and joyous, as attendees cheered for those who, just hours earlier, were considered tough competitors during the months of March through October, but who now have become “family,” a term that was used often, yet purposefully, during the evening’s speeches. Two of the top competitors this season were John Dean, who won the 2015 SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires title (pictured, right) and Robby Foley (left), winner of the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge.
While, in my eyes, the accomplishments of Dean and Foley are nothing short of impressive, I am also amazed by the accessibility of the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development program. From engineers and body shops to amateurs and pro racers – all are welcomed to take part in one capacity or another. It is truly a grassroots program that is supportive, yet challenging enough to prepare participants for the next level. Teams are even offered discounted stock (OE) Mazda parts and competition parts, as well as technical support.
For those of you considering a foray in the world of racing, and requiring only a ride for each weekend, Mazda has just announced its 2016 Global MX-5 Cup race car pricing. For a very reasonable (for racing) introductory price of $53,000, racers can go to www.MazdaMotorsports.com and order a turnkey, ready-to-race car. Each identically-built race car is based on the all-new 2016 ND chassis street car, with motorsports specific modifications and safety equipment engineered and installed by Mazda. Deliveries are expected to begin by late 2015.
And in case you are worried about the lack of corporate sponsorship for your racing dreams in 2016, Mazda states that privateers in the Cup Series can expect to spend about $7000 per weekend, assuming you already have a tow vehicle, trailer, and the aforementioned race car. Brown-bagging it and sleeping in your rig can knock off a little extra from that bottom line.
Feel your racing skills are a little past their prime? Or maybe your self-preservation kicks in a little sooner than it used to? Well, I also had the opportunity to speak with Christian Tetzlaff, Motorsports Vehicle Technology Instructor and Program Coordinator at Lanier Technical College that evening.
“There is a need for skilled technicians that work on race cars,” he said.
To put it plainly, the older guys are retiring, moving on and need to be replaced. Tetzlaff is also a professional race car driver in the SCCA Pro MX-5 Cup, allowing him to see, first hand, the needs and trends on the track and in the pits. Lanier Tech’s partnership with Skip Barber race school also affords students not only classroom training, but hands-on, trackside experiences, too.
With all of that being said, probably the best take-away from the evening, for me, was realizing the fact that my own racing dreams may not be over, as car racing is a great equalizer, no matter your gender, physical stature, or in my case – age. So who’s with me? Now if I can only convince my banquet +1 (i.e.- my wife) that this is as good an idea as I’ll envision tonight while I’m asleep.
Check out more of AutoAcademics’ Mazda coverage here – 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring Review.