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The MX-5 ticks the right boxes, and is now the default racing car of the Manila Sports Car Club

The MX-5 ticks the right boxes, and is now the default racing car of the Manila Sports Car Club

Mikko David

In a sea of certified vintage, classic and modern-day sports cars that members of the Manila Sports Car Club own, the Mazda MX-5, more popularly known as the Miata, seems a little out of place.

Don’t get us wrong. The tiny, open-top roadster totally deserves its place in the roster of vehicle-members of the club. In all its collective wisdom honed over decades of love for this automobile genre, the MSCC defines a sports car as a car with two doors, two or possibly three seats, and must have sporting character. There’s a fourth criteria that basically supports, if not supersedes, the first three. And that is, it must be in the MAC’s list.

The MSCC membership is said to be the among the country’s most looked-up to and respected car owners, collectors, aficionados and drivers. They have, over the years, defined class and set standards of adoration for the sports car that no mere daily driver owner can comprehend.

They appreciate their cars for what they are. And for some, they actually take them to the track for some, shall we say, “de-carbonization.” A sports car should be at home at the track, and the MSCC recognizes this.

That is why when Mazda Philippines broached the idea for a one-make, same-spec, Mazda MX-5 racing series, it must have been a eureka moment for some in the MSCC. For one, we have always seen the classic sports cars meticulously prepared for track use as part of the club’s regular race activities.

Second, these classic cars are not cheap to maintain. Some of their parts are custom-built or difficult to source. And a breakdown on the track can mean a repair bill in the tens of thousands of pesos, and definitely lots of lost time in the garage or shop. In fact, there was a time when the MSCC stopped racing altogether as members would rather preserve their cars and drive in leisure rather than in anger.

The current generation Mazda MX-5 seems to have addressed the lingering concern among members of the club about reliability and parts availability. As an MSCC-recognized sports car, it is more than capable technically to provide real sports car exhilaration and fun. With Mazda’s focus on engineering and designing a vehicle that provides the proverbial connection between car and driver, it easily fits the bill as the MSCC member’s weekend getaway car. Especially if that weekend involves laps around the track.

With the drive wheels at the back, it offers that classic nimbleness and spritely acceleration one would expect from a sports car. It is light, and Mazda made sure it retains a near 50:50 weight distribution to give maximum fun and enjoyment while braking hard and taking corners.

And the bonus here is that the driver can put the top down and feel the rush of speed onto his helmet. It helps of course that Mazda installed racing suspension components, chassis reinforcement and even Cusco roll cages to prop up performance and safety.

And as the first two rounds of the MSCC Miata Spec Series went underway last June 11, it was clear that the MX-5 was the ideal choice not only for the hardcore, professional racers in the club, but also for beginners who started off just appreciating the visuals and details of sports cars. And look at them now, racing in fireproof overalls and loving it.

Former Toyota Vios Cup champion Allan Uy handily won the weekend’s two races. Arguably, his racing skills honed over decades of go-kart and touring car racing took him to victory. But that’s just it right? The MSCC Miata Spec Series is a one-make race. Meaning, everyone has the same car. Only little things are allowed to be changed, mostly to try and adapt the car to the driver’s racing style. But equipment-wise, it is as level a playing field anyone can get with a sports car racing series.

So, with more practice and seat time, anyone can catch up with Allan or Angie King or Joey Almeda, all experienced racers in their own right. It is reasonable to expect then that we will see names like Paul Henderson Perez or Juha Turalba, who were among the top three finishers that weekend, come out more often and give Allan a run for his money.

The MX-5 ticks the right boxes, and is now the default racing car of the club. But why did we mention it is still out of place in the club? Well, the fourth generation Mazda MX-5 is no classic, yet. Having been launched in 2015, it is still an infant in classic sports car years.

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Compared to the modern high-horsepower Ferraris, Porsches, and Lamborghinis that some members of the MSCC own, the Mazda MX-5 is hardly a car that can go toe-to-toe with any of them in a drag race.

With its everyday amenities such as air conditioning, Anti-lock Brake System or ABS, airbags and traction control, the Mazda MX-5 today has become a more liveable sports car rather than a hardcore racing machine. It is a two-seater you can actually drive up to Baguio and back. Of course, a typical Porsche can do the same, and perhaps with even more comfort. But its taller sticker price and its parts and maintenance cost, exactly doesn’t make it any cheaper to do so.

Though one can even argue that the Mazda MX-5, like a real sports car, has a fair amount of character. Like glove boxes located at the back of the seats rather than in front of the passenger, or a 12-volt socket found close to the passenger’s left shin rather than in the center console. How about cup holders that detach and barely hold cups? Surely these must have made deciding for an MX-5 over a bigger and heavier, but more convenient, Toyota 86 or a Subaru BR-Z a mind-bending exercise.

The Miata Spec Cars are not cheap. But considering the value and maintenance cost of classic sports cars, or even the more powerful modern sports cars, is already expensive, racing the MX-5 balances the equation out.

But at the end of the day, it is still the Mazda MX-5 that was chosen to take the club to a higher level of racing. With improved Japanese reliability, and strong support from Mazda Philippines, it makes perfect sense to experiment with this undertaking.

And who are we to argue with the MSCC?