Our Low-Dollar Miata Races with NASA

Update by Ed Higginbotham to the Mazda Miata - Sunburst Yellow project car
Oct 13, 2014

Our Miata rolled onto grid at its first ever NASA race. It went well.
The skies opened up just before the first practice session.

We’ve had some good times at 24 Hours of LeMons and ChumpCar events in our 1992 Mazda Miata, but we’ve always wondered: How would this little car stack up against better prepared club racers? To find out, we stuck our budget racer on the trailer and shoved off for NASA Florida‘s Sebring event.

Just before the first practice session, it absolutely poured. The only rain tires we had were a very hard compound all-season, but they would have to do. It was our driver’s first time around Sebring International Raceway, but we still found ourselves turning respectable times and running in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, that relative success wouldn’t last.

All of the following sessions were on a dry track, so we had to swap to our sticky tires. We panicked for an hour trying to fit our race tires on the car—find the full story in an upcoming issue of Grassroots Motorsports—but eventually were successful.

What dry tires were we running? Nitto NT01s, a street-legal R-compound tire. We must say, we were pleasantly surprised by these. Once warmed up, they felt similar to Toyo’s Proxes RRs, though with slightly less grip. The good news was when you start to lose traction it is not an abrupt loss, it’s very gradual and easy to control. These tires were actually the only change in setup from what we had run earlier this year in the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Barber.

So, in an underprepared car, we rolled onto grid for the yellow Miata’s first ever NASA race, mixed in with the Spec Miata field. How did we make out? Well we weren’t the fastest—but we didn’t expect to be. But we were able to keep up with the tail end of the Spec Miata field. We had a great battle with Carlos Galavis in the blue car, though sadly his electrical issues ended it two laps before the end of the race.

Overall, we were thrilled to see that a $500 Miata could keep up with some higher-budget racers out there. We think there is more potential in the car, and can’t wait to have another go at the NASA Spec Miata field. Thank you to NASA for hosting these races–the attitude and community at their events are hard to beat.

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View comments on the GRM forums
jstein77 SuperDork
10/14/14 8:36 a.m.

I thought a hardtop was required for Spec Miata?

EdHigginbotham Editorial Assistant
10/14/14 8:54 a.m.

Indeed it is. We were driving in PTE, but since we were the only ones in our class, they let us grid up at the back of the Spec Miata field.

racerfink SuperDork
10/15/14 5:45 a.m.

The hardtop is not required with SCCA. Suprised to learn it is with NASA.

What kind of lap times?

EdHigginbotham Editorial Assistant
10/15/14 8:58 a.m.

I stand corrected. I just looked up the rules and they do not require a hardtop. I guess I've just never ever seen one without it.

We were running pretty slow. Best lap time was a 2:51.1. The car could have gone faster. It was also my first time around Sebring.

racerfink SuperDork
10/15/14 4:00 p.m.

In testing, we found the hardtop is worth 7mph at the end of the Ulman straight.

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