DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After nearly eight years of investing in young race drivers’ careers, and with the launch of its TUDOR United SportsCar Championship prototype program, Mazda now has all of the elements in place to offer a comprehensive and complete driver development ladder in sports cars.
The Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy (MSCRA) will offer aspiring racers the opportunity to climb to the top level of motorsports by racing and winning in Mazdas.
John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations summarized the academy concept.
“The foundation of Mazda’s Motorsports program has always been our thousands of grassroots racers,” Doonan said. “Many of our club racing customers who got their start in grassroots racing have also grown their careers and achieved great success. Mazda believes in giving drivers the chance to ‘move up’ and we have put our money where our mouth is with this strategy since 2007. Now, with the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy and our new Mazda Prototype program at the very top of the sport, we have a structure in place that can support drivers’ from their entry into amateur motorsports all the way to careers as professional racing drivers.”
Mazda-powered championship-winning drivers will be eligible and could qualify for both financial and career support from Mazda. This is an ongoing evolution of what Mazda has been doing since 2007 – first known as the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development ladder.
“Racing is an extremely competitive and challenging sport,” said Jim France, IMSA chairman. “It’s great to have Mazda supporting drivers and helping develop careers from the beginning of the developmental process to the top. You don’t start your racing career in a TUDOR United SportsCar Championship car. You need to work your way up, so we’re pleased to have Mazda supporting several levels of our sport.”
When kids as young as five years old enter go-karting, they will have a clear understanding of the path that they need to take to reach the pinnacle of sports cars racing. Once they graduate to race cars, most begin in grassroots competition. Mazda has outstanding relationships with both SCCA and NASA, with Spec Miata being the most popular class in all of club racing.
The annual Mazda Club racer shootout will evolve to allow the possibility for more racers to become eligible.
Mazda’s own MX-5 Cup Championship will continue to be the first rung on the pro level.
Success in MX-5 Cup will lead to the young drivers’ first experience in exotic, purpose-built, open-cockpit prototypes, or the ultra-competitive Continental Challenge ST class. Both the Cooper Tire IMSA Prototype Lites powered by Mazda series and Continental ST offers real-world lessons in aerodynamics, downforce, data analysis, race car set-up and engineering, all of which are key elements for success at the highest levels.
Winning a championship in a Mazda-powered racecar in either the Continental Tire Challenge or IMSA Prototype Lites will result in a test in the Mazda SKYACTIV Prototype.