DRIVEN: MAZDA MX-5 GT RACE CAR
PH drives the one-off MX-5 race car that's been denting a few egos in Britcar
Especially when you learn that its giant killing pace doesn’t come from some V8 transplant or bolt-on supercharger kit. Taking Mazda’s ‘gram strategy’ to extremes, the MX-5 GT strips weight out of the standard road car, tunes up the normally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and uses pluck and guile to run rings round ostensibly much more serious race machinery.
Nobody outside the team has driven it before, so as a paid-up MX-5 nerd I leapt at the invitation to do so, this off the back of racing the GT’s sister production car at Rockingham earlier this year.
These identically liveried cars are little more than slick shod, stripped’n’caged road cars prepared for hacks to get a taste of racing alongside the GT in the Britcar MSA Endurance Championship. The GT is, it’s clear, a much more serious deal, though.
A few laps in the production racer bridge the gap between regular road car and the GT, slicks and a racy chassis set-up throwing in a ton more grip and cornering speed. Still not that fast, but inherently chuckable and huge fun to drive.
Outwardly, the production racer and GT car appear pretty much identical, but there’s more to it than that. A stripped standard car, acid dipped to remove 17kg worth of insulation and sound proofing, was the starting point, Jota’s weight saving strategy more about kilos rather than grams.
Mounting the engine 50mm lower required modifying the subframe, Jota opting for a Quaife sequential six-speed gearbox driving through a beefed-up LSD from the same source.
The previous Sachs dampers have since been replaced with touring car spec Ohlins units, the pick-up points, wishbones and uprights all as per the road car but with additional adjustment built in.
The wheel is clipped in place and the engine fires into a truculent idle. Holding down the yellow N button on the wheel, clutch pedal down, first engages with a tug of the right paddle and a hefty thunk. Once away there’s no need to use the third pedal – just pull the paddle and the next cog bangs home with an accompanying PSSST-clack from the pneumatic shift mechanism.
Where the MX-5 makes up the time is in the corners and the first one on this shortened Anglesey track is a long right-hander with a tricky dip halfway through and a late, late apex. Frankly, I mince through it but I get it slowed for the tight section at the top of the hill and try and assert myself on the throttle earlier on the exit. I’m still pottering but the 5 is on my side and with the blaring revs and rapid fire shifts my blood is up and by the time I reach the pits I’m really starting to enjoy myself.
Like any racing car it’s a matter of tyres and learning how hard you can lean on them. Very, would appear to be the answer and, swallowing a big brave pill I hold more speed for that big right-hander. The Mazda thumps into the dip but, as promised, loaded and on a balanced throttle it doesn’t deviate one bit. This is fun. Lots of fun.
Like any MX-5, even one as potent as this, the pace (and fun) comes from carrying speed through the corners, but appreciating quite how much you have to play with would take a few more laps that, sadly, I don’t have.
Images: Mazda/Gary Hawkins