ICYMI: Mazda Leaving IMSA Prototype Competition

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Feb 19, 2021 | Mazda, IMSA

Mazda’s IMSA prototype race program, a fan-favorite, will not be back for 2022. This season, in fact, it’s just a single-car effort.

Go back just a couple of years and, despite a lack of wins, that Mazda program enjoyed a huge fan base. GRM was there with you: autograph signings, paddock tours and rooting from the sidelines. 

So, now that the news has had a few days to settle in, what are your thoughts about Mazda ending its IMSA Prototype run? No big deal as it’s not a Miata? Or will this leave a hole in your heart? 

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Comments
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captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/18/21 2:39 p.m.

My concern lies with Mazda's push as a brand to move upscale. That combined with the elimination of the TCR and prototype programs has me wondering if support for club racing and other amateur endeavors is next. Support and involvement of motorsports doesn't fit the image of upscale branding. I would hate to see Mazda go And would be curious to see what, if any,  manufacturers (Honda and Hyundai I'm looking at you two) would fill the void if Mazda were to discontinue amateur support. It's a substantial concern that I have for our world going forward. 

infernosg
infernosg Reader
2/18/21 2:54 p.m.

I'll admit I'm more than a little bummed. I started following Motorsports with their RX8s in Grand-Am. I was drawn to Mazda's uniqueness and their close relationship with both amateur and professional racing. I loved being part of their corrals at races. Unfortunately, when the RX8s were retired it kind of seemed like the beginning of the end. The corrals ended. The SkyActiv Diesel effort was a bust that resulted in some dull years. Despite a few glimmers of hope their DPi endeavor never really took off despite three different management teams. As mentioned previously I'm also concerned how this will ultimately play out with their overall Motorsports support. The TCR program got canned. How long does the MX-5 Cup have? I certainly don't wish Mazda any ill will but their shift to "upscale" branding has left me behind.

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/18/21 2:57 p.m.

Yeah I feel like Mazda is about to be done with motorsports altogether in their push to become a Japanese Buick.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/18/21 3:14 p.m.

Hmmm I wonder if I can get a smoking deal on a used prototype?

Sad to see them go.

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/18/21 5:25 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

A chassis with the old setup is for sale.

That was from before Joest then Multimatic rearranged everthing.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
2/19/21 9:03 a.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

My concern lies with Mazda's push as a brand to move upscale. That combined with the elimination of the TCR and prototype programs has me wondering if support for club racing and other amateur endeavors is next. Support and involvement of motorsports doesn't fit the image of upscale branding. I would hate to see Mazda go And would be curious to see what, if any,  manufacturers (Honda and Hyundai I'm looking at you two) would fill the void if Mazda were to discontinue amateur support. It's a substantial concern that I have for our world going forward. 

I'm not sure I agree with that when you look at the German manufacturers. 

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/19/21 9:13 a.m.
j_tso said:

In reply to Tom1200 :

A chassis with the old setup is for sale.

That was from before Joest then Multimatic rearranged everthing.

That is listed by Sylvan Tremblay

wae
wae UberDork
2/19/21 9:15 a.m.
z31maniac said:
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

My concern lies with Mazda's push as a brand to move upscale. That combined with the elimination of the TCR and prototype programs has me wondering if support for club racing and other amateur endeavors is next. Support and involvement of motorsports doesn't fit the image of upscale branding. I would hate to see Mazda go And would be curious to see what, if any,  manufacturers (Honda and Hyundai I'm looking at you two) would fill the void if Mazda were to discontinue amateur support. It's a substantial concern that I have for our world going forward. 

I'm not sure I agree with that when you look at the German manufacturers. 

There's also Lexus.  I'm not real familiar with everything they're doing, but they've got a GTD program, some sort of performance street car, and I thought some sort of performance trim across their platform.  "F", maybe?  Honda certainly participates in motorsports as well, even under the upscale Acura brand in DPi.  I know the original NSX was an Acura in the US, is the new one branded as such as well?  GM moved their DPi program branding away from Corvette and into Cadillac a couple years back.  I can't think of anything that Nissan is doing right now with Infiniti.  Or with Nissan, for that matter.

I have to wonder if Mazda wants to focus all of their motorsports and performance branding around the MX-5.  They seem to be making a bigger push around the MX-5 cup racing all of a sudden like.  And the MX-5 is certainly well known as a performance-oriented brand even outside of enthusiast circles.  Mazda has also never really been in the hybrid development game, so moving into LMDh is probably a little more difficult for them since they don't have anything on the shelf in the road car department that they could start with.  I mean, I know that the batteries and motor and all that is a spec thing, but they don't really have any in-house experience with it and the cost to develop or purchase that experience isn't something that the road car side seems all that enthused about helping to amortize.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/19/21 9:22 a.m.

Mazda's never going to be a premium car maker as long as their halo car is a $27,000 convertible with under 200 hp. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with that :) But they're an odd company that way.

In that case, it makes more sense for them to be involved in club level motorsports and programs like Global MX5 Cup than prototype racing. Especially US prototype racing, which is really low profile. The club support reaches enthusiasts directly and really reinforces their brand. The racing is cars that are very clearly derived from cars in the showroom, not some spaceship that uses the same paint color. 

I think the only way to get real value out of prototype racing is to be racing at the very top level in the WEC and be doing well there. Audi did it right. Mazda did it right in 1991 when the rule set was working for the weird engine that they sold at the time. But it's a big, big investment.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/19/21 9:34 a.m.

I figure there are two big reasons for an OE to get involved in motorsports:

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday: NASCAR, Le Mans, IMSA DP, top levels of NHRA, etc. Use a successful race program to fire up your fan base and dealer/staff network while, hopefully, making new fans.

Racer support: Make money by selling cars and parts to racers--like today's programs from Mazda, Hyundai, Porsche, Honda, etc. 

And sometimes you can blend the two.

I figure that somewhere someone has to approve the expense and/or make the numbers work. 

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/19/21 10:20 a.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

My concern lies with Mazda's push as a brand to move upscale. That combined with the elimination of the TCR and prototype programs has me wondering if support for club racing and other amateur endeavors is next. Support and involvement of motorsports doesn't fit the image of upscale branding. I would hate to see Mazda go And would be curious to see what, if any,  manufacturers (Honda and Hyundai I'm looking at you two) would fill the void if Mazda were to discontinue amateur support. It's a substantial concern that I have for our world going forward. 

Mazda very clearly stated to those of us in the dealershpis they wanted to push their motorpsorts side very clearly as a part of their brand strategy in the 2016 events I was in.

Mazda is trying to separate itself from the other Japanese manufacturers and try to get away from the race to the bottom in pricing by making compelling cars for the $$.

They are trying to cut out a niche as a lifestyle brand.

as other have stated, these race programs are expensive.

Mazda has had successes now in the program, so they can hang their heads high.



 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/19/21 11:32 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Mazda's never going to be a premium car maker as long as their halo car is a $27,000 convertible with under 200 hp. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with that :) But they're an odd company that way.

In that case, it makes more sense for them to be involved in club level motorsports and programs like Global MX5 Cup than prototype racing. Especially US prototype racing, which is really low profile. The club support reaches enthusiasts directly and really reinforces their brand. The racing is cars that are very clearly derived from cars in the showroom, not some spaceship that uses the same paint color. 

I think the only way to get real value out of prototype racing is to be racing at the very top level in the WEC and be doing well there. Audi did it right. Mazda did it right in 1991 when the rule set was working for the weird engine that they sold at the time. But it's a big, big investment.

I think this sums it up pretty well.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/19/21 12:19 p.m.

Alright, I'll bring up the elephant in the room. When comparing Mazda's support for Motorsport at any level to that of Lexus, Acura, Porsche, BMW or Mercedes, one must realize that Toyota, Honda, VWAG, BMW and Mercedes have the capital and cash flow to be involved in such endeavors and support and weather a three to four year storm and economic downturn. Mazda simply isn't in that position and it's unfortunate. What they tell people within dealership networks, which IS marketing to get them to drink the Kool-Aid, back in 2016, is completely irrelevant in a 2021 economic climate. 

I agree with Keith, when your halo car is a sub $30,000 200 horsepower convertible, The thought of positioning your brand upscale is polar opposite to the reality of the niche that you own and should embrace. It's what made the mazda 2 one of the best modern mazdas, sure it shared some chassis elements with the fiesta, and it made less power, but it's transmission didn't turn to a box of neutrals, it was lots lighter, had fantastic steering feel and was much more engaging and fun to drive. Mazda has survived the past 30 years making engaging responsive fun to drive cars. A move up scale screams out to a call for driver isolation, which is what most of the market wants, but it's never been what's buttered Mazda's bread. They have stated that's the direction that they're planning on going. I just hope that they continue to support the amateur club racing community that embraced who they were over the past 30 plus years. 

CrashDummy
CrashDummy Reader
2/19/21 3:47 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

 The club support reaches enthusiasts directly and really reinforces their brand. 

I'm curious, Keith: do you still consider Mazda to be an enthusiast brand? 10 years ago you could walk into any Mazda dealer and choose between a Miata, a Speed3, and an RX8. Additionally, at that time their non-performance cars were almost universally considered the most fun to drive in each segment. They had an LMP car with the Dyson team, they had Conti-challenge Speed3s and Miata, and they had the grassroots support programs. Today the only interesting car they make is the Miata. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/19/21 4:01 p.m.

Well, I haven't walked into a Mazda dealer since I went to pick up our 2019 - but I think the CX-5 and CX-3 carry the "sports car of their class" DNA. I don't know much about the CX-30 other than the fact that it's poorly named :)  But IMO there's a clearer connection between "sporty" and "Mazda" than there was in 2011. The flagship sports car is sexier than it was then and more universally loved, and the other cars are more clearly related to it. The RX8 was just weird really. Speed3 was separate from the rest of the brand. The lineup seems more cohesive now.

Honestly, I had to look up what Mazda was racing in LMP (but not WEC) 10 years ago.

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/19/21 4:09 p.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:
Mazda has survived the past 30 years making engaging responsive fun to drive cars. A move up scale screams out to a call for driver isolation, which is what most of the market wants, but it's never been what's buttered Mazda's bread. They have stated that's the direction that they're planning on going. I just hope that they continue to support the amateur club racing community that embraced who they were over the past 30 plus years. 

Mazda knows that, but now they're emphasizing their brand to the discerning driver, and hoping that customer will pay more.

I remember an early Clarkson Top Gear (like 2003) when they reviewed the Mazda 6 and were surprised at how well it handled but lamented it was doomed to be a fleet car.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/20/21 10:55 a.m.

A question for Mazda's marketing folks: Are you trying to woo Audi owners or Honda owners? Similar but maybe a little different, too. 

The CX30 is nice as the touch surfaces feel upmarket. Will it make someoen give up their Audi or BMW? Good quesiton. Love to see the data. 

Supporting club racers is great but, let's be honest, Mazda exists to make money. 

chada75
chada75 HalfDork
2/20/21 5:15 p.m.

I guarantee the finances that Mazda put into the DPi program would have a even bigger RoI supporting the club level racers!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/20/21 9:51 p.m.

Although some good news for Mazda: Consumer Reports names Mazda as the top car brand. (And a total sidebar, but just noticed that we own four of the top five brands.)

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/21/21 1:02 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

To finish first, first you have to finish. 

nocones
nocones GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/21/21 1:30 p.m.

This is sad, these were my favorites, I just liked the way they looked best of the cars competing in their class.  

If anyone knows anyone at Mazda let them know I would be willing to Continue to run the cars, I'll even keep the Mazda livery on it.  Won't cost them anything they can just drop one or two of the cars off.  You know what.  I'll even come get them.  I may at some point have to fabricobble cheaper running gear into the car.   I'll keep it Mazda though.  Promise.  

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
2/21/21 2:43 p.m.

This isn’t the first time we have discussed Mazda and their intentions here, but I’m always intrigued by the conversation as they have made some of my favorite driver’s cars over the years.

I feel sad when I see them pulling out of some racing endeavors, especially the TCR car. Their shift toward a near luxury brand scared/scares me. I fear it means more mundane cars. The 3 and 6 seem like they no longer have the sporting edge they used to.

Its nuanced though. The Miata is there and more loved since the NA, and the CX-5, likely their biggest seller, is still the sportscar of the class. And they still support amateur racers. 

Call me worried about the Mazda present and future.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/25/21 11:59 a.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

Mazda, like Nissan, has deep roots in motorsports at both the pro and am level. Likewise, hopefully they keep a foot in it. 

On the other hand, there has to be some serious expected ROI on a prototype program. Did the Le Mans win help them back in the day? Looking back, yeah, I think it did since that car has become such a part of the brand's history. We can all picture the green and orange.

In five or 10 years, will we recall Mazda's DPi program the same way? 

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