Britcar Production Sports Car Race, Silverstone International Race Circuit , 11th May 2013 by Mark Ticehurst
Racing an MX-5 is always exciting and enjoyable no matter what level of modifications have been carried out or what specification the car has been built too. It is the MX-5’s core agility, dynamic handling and perfect weight distribution that makes it a perfect base for competition within any class of racing that it is eligible for. You only need to look at the Mazda MX-5 Owners Club burgeoning series, which is oversubscribed every year, that demonstrates the fun and performance of the MX-5 whilst in a relatively standard production form.
Our race car for this weekend was originally built for a celebration race in Adria, Italy, to celebrate the MX-5’s 20th anniversary in 2010 (In which I competed for the Mazda UK Team). It has subsequently competed in two 24hr races, one 12hr race plus a whole season of Britcar and numerous other events without so much as an engine or gearbox rebuild. Because the car was originally built for the celebration race and subsequently ‘morphed’ several times to suit other race series, it was not designed or built to maximize the current regulations within the new Britcar Production Sportscar Series. The event this weekend was for Mazda UK to enable two motoring journalists to experience racing the MX-5 and to stay true to Mazda’s ethos of having fun with their cars.
It was also great to have guests from SMH and Jota Aviation who have supported us for the last few seasons, and I look forward to further races in 2013 with them all.
My team mate for the weekend was motoring journalist David Hooper, and Owen was teamed up with Richard Aucock. Both David and Richard had spent the previous day testing and getting acclimatized to the cars and the Silverstone International circuit layout. They therefore took to the track for their qualifying stint before Owen and myself took over.
The track was still very greasy from overnight rain but was more than dry enough for slicks. Our Jota crew were having great fun in telling both myself and Owen that the other one was quicker in a deliberate act to push us harder!!!
Unfortunately I found that the left front tyre was soon over heated and past its best, leaving me with severe under steer through Abbey and Stowe, the two fastest corners on the track. At one point I have to admit to trying Abbey flat and without a lift which resulted in contact with the exit marker post much to the annoyance of the team mechanics who had to polish the scuffs out later (it was their fault for pushing us too hard !!).
Anyway, I have to concede that Owen did a better job and was 1/10th of a second quicker and out-qualified us by one place on the grid. We may have been there for fun, but you always want to be quicker than your team mate!!
It seemed like both David and Richard were relatively well matched on pace which boded well for the race.
Race 1 – 45 minutes:
The track was still slippery, especially on cold slicks and this was demonstrated by two cars spinning on the formation lap directly in front of Owen and myself. Even more drama occurred at the first corner with at least three of the front starters spinning and causing a shock wave down through the pack. I made good use of the available run off areas to leap frog several cars including Owen. This was short lived as I was hit rather hard from behind causing the rear bumper to become severely dislodged and whilst it remained attached to the car by only a couple of fixings, it was flailing around and adding drag thus reducing my straight line speed. Owen and I enjoyed a few laps of tussling with each other amongst a pack of other MX-5’s and other race cars. I was able to make good use of the traffic and managed to break free of the pack leaving Owen to fight it out alone. Settling into a good steady pace, I completed 17 laps before pitting.
David took over and rejoined the race. Unfortunately four laps into his stint, he was a victim of the exceptionally slippery run off area at Stowe and the resultant heavy impact with the infield concrete wall was the end of our race. The car was significantly damaged but thankfully David was only suffering a damaged pride!!
Race 2 – 45 minutes:
Our Jota and Mazda Motors UK technical team made up of Chris Beadle, Simon Cotterell, Simon Type and Bobby Saward worked absolute miracles in repairing the heavy front end damage within the restricted time and with the available parts to enable us to start race two.
The rain had now started and the track was very wet so rain tyres were required. The first few laps were a little bit of an adventure into the unknown due to the previous damage and repairs, however everything appeared to be working as it should. I had overtaken Owen at Stowe on the opening lap and had gained second place by the end of the first lap.
A race long battle then ensued with the #7 Porsche 993, which as expected was much faster on the many straights at Silverstone but was much less committed in the braking areas and corners. I had to concede that the battle was futile and accepted that third place overall and an increasing gap back to Owen was as much as I could attain. The MX-5 was just amazing and great fun to drive in these treacherous conditions. Having spent many years competitively racing karts, this was the nearest driving sensation I have experienced in a relatively unmodified road specification car. I had a grin permanently engrained on my face and found myself even laughing at times whilst witnessing Owen’s controlled slides viewed from my rear view mirror (whilst also controlling my own slide at the same time!!!)
I got my call to pit on lap 15 and thought about ignoring it so I could have a few more laps to enjoy myself, but being the dutiful driver I pitted and handed over to David.
Quickly giving David some advice on the conditions over the radio intercom, he completed his stint in a steady fashion and brought the car to the end of the race without any incident – which is an achievement in itself in the conditions.