Home  »  Car Racing  »  Features  »  Videos

Racing Adventures: Motorsport Retro goes racing in the Mazda MX5 Cup

Submitted by on April 5, 2018

I’ve decided to get the old gang back together and have a crack at club level racing in a road registered, 1993 Mazda MX5 1.6 under the Motorsport Retro banner.

It’s been two long years since I hit the race track for some proper door to door action. Last time out I was racing my mate Craig Drury’s fierce Lotus Exige S1, this time I’ll be racing something a bit more low key.

What to buy?

I decided on the Mazda because of its versatility, cost and fun factor. Which car can I drive to the track, race and then drive home in? Which car can I take on a Sunday drive with the roof down? Which car can I tinker with and improve performance without forking over an arm and a leg? Which car has a gigantic range of aftermarket and performance parts?  Which can can I buy for $10K?  That’s right a humble 1.6L 1993 Mazda MX 5.

Road and race spec – no difference.

So, I bought this little beauty from Cameron at Blue Mountains Mazda . It was lovely and straight and included a few track ready modifications, such as a half roll cage, some entry level coil overs and upgraded brakes from an NB model, plus some Sparco sprint seats. However, the standard 100HP wasn’t going to cut it on road or track. I had to do something about the power, so decided on a Supercharger upgrade kit from Fast Forward Supercharges in the USA.  I prefer Superchargers to Turbos as the torque and power curves are more linear and for me more fun to drive on the throttle.

The Supercharger installation

In the Fast Forward Supercharger kit – An Eaton TVS 900 blower

The kit arrived complete, but we did run into a few problems with the install mainly with fit issues with the difference between the LHD of the USA kit and the RHD of my Australian model. One of the challenges was that the clutch master cylinder was in the way of the supercharger, which required it to be relocated along with the fabrication of a few custom parts.  In the end the however, the thing worked wonderfully well and produces great reliable power.

A few track days proved its reliability and now we are getting a modest, but reliable 155HP at the wheels on the dyno.

I was really keen for the car to remain an enjoyable, if slightly stiff road car. So the “race trim” is pretty road friendly with full carpet , a stereo and fully functioning air conditioning!

The engine bay

Getting it race ready

To race in the NSW MX5 Cup the car required a AASA logbook, meaning it needed to meet club level safety standards.

So in went a battery isolation switch, secondary bonnet catch, tow hooks, race harness, and the correct stickers

For a bit of extra performance I fell off my wallet and bought some Nankang AR1 semi slicks, a Kaaz LSD differential and some Hawk blue brake pads to make it stop.

My old racing buddy Derek Smith from European Autotech agreed to help make the car safe and ready to race

Sparco sprint seat and OMP wheel, schroth belts

Lets go racing!

So we packed the car, which is now 100% prepared, and set off on our racing adventure. We know that you often win or lose races in the garage before the event, so we set off fairly confident that the machine would stand up to the racing and be reliable. We really wanted enjoy the atmosphere and the racing schedule and not be chasing car issues.

So we headed to the 1st Round at Wakefield Park, car prepped, but having not raced there since the mid 1990s.

Ready to roll

Road Trip

When you’re 46 years old and racing just for fun, taking off for the weekend with one of your good mates is one of the highlights of the whole adventure. My Irish pal Derek, who used to prepare my Formula Fords, kept me in stitches with his stories on the three hour leg from Sydney to Goulburn. We enjoyed a few too many beers and a bite to eat on arrival, but managed to hit the hay at a respectable 10pm.

Rich & Derek

Wakefield Park  – Mazda MX-5 Cup Round 1

We arrive on Saturday at 6:45 am, set up, sign on, get scrutineered, attend the drivers briefing, attach the dorian timer to the car, tape the magnetic numbers on the side. And suddenly it was 9:30am and time for our qualifying!

Two tables, a toolbox and good mate is all that’s required!

Qualifying – 10 minutes

Having not driven this car on this circuit and not knowing anything about the pace of my car relative to the competition, I drove into the marshalling area early and lined up about 4th. It was a mistake to line up 4th, just behind the quick cars. Once on track, I drove as fast and politely as I could, but generally just got swamped by the faster guys, so I didn’t really get a clean lap in. The result was last! P15, in a scrappy 1:13.6. It was clear the car was off the pace and I was a bit rusty too.

The car lacked power compared to the others, but handling wise, whilst nice and pointy, it was oversteering on entry, rolling too much and generally not behaving that nicely. We went one stiffer on the front bar for race 1.

Pre qualifying nerves

Race 1 – 6 Laps

I actually got a ripper of a start and held off a few guys into turn 1, then positioned myself well for the run up the hill and passed a couple. Another guy fell off in front of me. So I had made up 4 positions by the end of lap one. The car was better than in qualifying although still too tailey, but I drove well, soaked up a bit of pressure and drove pretty defensive drive cars to take P11, which as it turned out later was enough for a first up C class win!

The car is still too oversteery on entry, so we disconnect the rear bar as it was already maxed out on full soft.

Race 1 highlights

Race 2 – 8 laps

This time I got a poor start. I’m not sure what happened next, but this time I have a guy called Paul Nudd in an NC all over me. Again I drove defensively to hold him off. I cant attack anyone, I’m too slow. I finish in P12. Paul introduces himself and we talk about how he enjoyed our battle, which are the conversations you want to be having at a club race!

The car is more raceable, but generally still lacks grip. We decide on dropping 2 psi from the tyres.

Charging hard

Race 3 – 10 laps

Another shit start, but the car is more racebable now, I can push it harder into the corners. The tyre pressure change has helped and all is going well. Again I have Paul all over me. Coming onto the straight, I make a mistake and miss a gear. Paul is past me and I set off in pursuit. I have a crack at him under brakes, but mess it up. I close on him towards the end, but then in my mirrors see the two leaders Verne Johnson and Todd Herring all crossed up behind me and I pull out of their way. I finish in P10.

I manage a 1m12.4 so we feel pretty good about the pace improvement of 1.2 seconds from qualifying. The result is that the little street registered machine, complete with air condition, carpets and stereo finishes a credible 2nd in class C. This puts us 5th outright. A great result for such a mellow little race car.

When we return, the stickers come off, the road seats get fitted, the roof comes off and the MX-5 resumes service as a Sunday cruiser.

There is a car behind me!


Thanks to Derek and Cameron at European Autotech and David at Leatherman and Ledlenser

Action shots courtesy: X Trim Motor Trimming



Don't miss out! Our best stories, direct to your inbox!


Sign up now - it's free, weekly, and spam-free.