The Staff of Motorsport Marketing
The Staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
8/28/18 2:33 p.m.

Spec Miata, one of the most popular road racing classes in American amateur motorsports, is about to see a big change for 2019: Bilstein dampers will be replaced with Penskes. When the class was formed nearly 20 years ago, the rules required off-the-shelf Bilsteins. They will be replaced with shock absorbers specifically designed for motorsports.

Four manufacturers replied to a request for proposal, and the different dampers were tested at Carolina Motorsports Park. Panic Motorsports supplied the cars, while Long Road Racing handled logistics. The driver roster included former pro Randy Pobst, MX-5 Cup champ John Dean II and Mazda factory driver Joel Miller. The Mazda release notes that the test used four different versions of the Miata as well as both Toyo and Hoosier tires. “Spec Miata goes from a street shock to a race shock,” Pobst tells us. “Just that simple. The car has always been way underdamped.”

Both NASA and SCCA have approved the new dampers for competition beginning January 1, 2019, a Mazda release explains, with a sunset timeline being set for the outgoing pieces. Mazda Motorsports expects to have the Penskes in stock this November. Converting each car–dampers, top mounts and hardware–will cost about a grand.

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trigun7469
trigun7469 SuperDork
8/28/18 3:02 p.m.

Better check Ebay for some cheap Bilstein dampers laugh

Professor_Brap
Professor_Brap HalfDork
8/28/18 3:17 p.m.
trigun7469 said:

Better check Ebay for some cheap Bilstein dampers laugh

I have pre purchased 4 sets now.... 

 

boxedfox
boxedfox Reader
8/28/18 9:44 p.m.

That price point is crazy though. 1k for a full coil over suspension setup using Penske dampers. Makes me wonder if they're making any money off of these kits. Or if they're even breaking even.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc HalfDork
8/28/18 9:52 p.m.
Professor_Brap said:
trigun7469 said:

Better check Ebay for some cheap Bilstein dampers laugh

I have pre purchased 4 sets now.... 

 

How would the SM Bilsteins work with stock springs for an ES NB2?

They're certainly cheap.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/28/18 10:19 p.m.
boxedfox said:

That price point is crazy though. 1k for a full coil over suspension setup using Penske dampers. Makes me wonder if they're making any money off of these kits. Or if they're even breaking even.

1k for a set of non-adjustable shocks and upper mounts. Bring your own springs. 

SM Bilsteins are just off-the-shelf HDs. Nothing magic. There are already lots of cheap ones out there. If they’ve been revalved for SM rates, they’ll be way overdamped for stock springs. 

boxedfox
boxedfox Reader
8/28/18 10:36 p.m.

If they work anywhere near as well as the Penske road race dampers I've driven on, I'd still say that's a bargain. They just seem to do the basics really well - good consistent damping across the range with very progressive fade characteristics.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc HalfDork
8/28/18 10:47 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
boxedfox said:

That price point is crazy though. 1k for a full coil over suspension setup using Penske dampers. Makes me wonder if they're making any money off of these kits. Or if they're even breaking even.

1k for a set of non-adjustable shocks and upper mounts. Bring your own springs. 

SM Bilsteins are just off-the-shelf HDs. Nothing magic. There are already lots of cheap ones out there. If they’ve been revalved for SM rates, they’ll be way overdamped for stock springs. 

Thanks,Keith. I'm going to wait till next spring to get new shocks.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/28/18 10:55 p.m.
boxedfox said:

If they work anywhere near as well as the Penske road race dampers I've driven on, I'd still say that's a bargain. They just seem to do the basics really well - good consistent damping across the range with very progressive fade characteristics.

They may be very good if valved well, but the price point isn't out of line. 

_
_ Reader
8/29/18 12:34 a.m.

I tried finding “cheap” bilsteins on eBay... nothing even remotely close to cheap. Maybe it’ll pick up now that it’s official. I checked three days ago and everyone was selling but at a price point of “stupid”. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/29/18 12:51 p.m.

I don't think the Penskes are shipping yet. You won't see the used Bilsteins until that happens.

trigun7469
trigun7469 SuperDork
8/29/18 2:43 p.m.

In reply to _ : Wait until after Christmas I bet they will get cheaper. I am wondering how this will effect the champcar teams, as some of them runs in SM.

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/29/18 3:06 p.m.

How much would I hate my life if I tried running Spec Miata shocks/springs on the street? (I'm guessing the answer is "A whole lot, just go buy some Fox, you cheap bastard")

boxedfox
boxedfox Reader
8/29/18 3:30 p.m.
NickD said:

How much would I hate my life if I tried running Spec Miata shocks/springs on the street? (I'm guessing the answer is "A whole lot, just go buy some Fox, you cheap bastard")

If the construction is similar to their 7150 or 7500 series the bodies probably won't tolerate regular street use. But I see people driving to the track on JRZ 11 series dampers and they're a dedicated racing shock.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/29/18 5:29 p.m.

Spec Miata runs some pretty stiff front springs - 700 lb. That's a little high for street use, even with magic dampers. We don't know how the Penskes are valved but it's unlikely that street comfort was a consideration. By the time you've paid for a set of good springs, the Penskes wouldn't be THAT much cheaper than Fox.

Now, if you're talking about a Bilstein-based SM suspension - you'd hate yourself a lot. That shock was chosen because it was cheap, not because it was right. It's taken 18 years for the ruling bodies to do something about it.

APEowner
APEowner Dork
8/29/18 6:03 p.m.

What makes the Spec. Miata suspension great is that it's relatively cheap and everyone in the class is running it (well, they should be) so the competition is close.  Other than that  there's not much else to recommend it .  Yeah it works but the Bilstein are under damped and either the front springs are too stiff or the rears are too soft depending on your perspective.  Also, the Bilstiens don't hold up all that well.

 

 

geek49203
geek49203 New Reader
9/4/18 6:59 p.m.

Keith...

Any of the new stuff, or the cast offs, useable for a locost?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/4/18 11:35 p.m.

 Not ideal, but the usual messed up front spring geometry might work with those springs. Biggest problems would be the spring diameter, most of the ones I’ve dealt with use smaller OD springs. 

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