Mazda MX5 Rally Build

In January we were asked to build a Mazda MX5 rally car on an extremely tight timescale. We had to get the build complete and gain the Motorsport UK vehicle passport (AKA Logbook) by the 15th of February. Time was tight, and we would only be able to do the minimum to get the car to rally specification, but we were up for the challenge.

The soonest we were able to arrange a scrutineer to inspect the car and provide the vehicle passport was on the Thursday before the customer’s event (he needed the car on the Friday!), but it car passed with flying colours. Our customer took delivery, loaded it onto his trailer and drove to Snetterton.

Our customer was good enough to provide us with a report of how his first weekend with the car went. We’ve reproduced it here, along with some photos, with his kind permission…

Snetterton 15/2/2020

Our 2020 season got underway last Saturday with a tarmac stage rally at Snetterton circuit. Well, I say tarmac. 15% of the rally was off-road using various bits of the infield and perimeter tracks.

We were out for the first time in the new Mazda MX5. With sad memories of the lost Lotus still haunting us we needed to get a solid finish under our belts. In the best traditions of motor racing, the car was only finished and logbooked on the Thursday. We collected it on Friday and we were straight off to Snetterton for scrutineering. It was a huge effort by Dorset Sports Cars to get the car prepared in time so a huge thank you to Tim and his team. The time constraints meant there was only time to do the bare minimum to get it rally legal. This meant that everything else was standard apart from upgraded brake pads and racing brake fluid.

The event was a round of the Motorsport News Circuit rally championship which is the foremost tarmac rally series in the country and the entry reflected this. The top 20 were packed with World Rally cars and fire breathing tarmac specials. Even in the wet the noise and the speed of the quick cars was incredible.

My total experience of the car was driving it on and off the trailer so it was a nervous start. The howling wind and driving rain of Storm Dennis added to the challenge. At least the windscreen wipers and demister worked. Jenny counted me down and off we went into Stage 1. We needed all of the 158bhp to make headway into the wind. If we had hoisted a sail downwind we would have gone much faster.

The route took us on and off the circuit with tricky chicanes and hairpins galore. Where cars had come off the gravel/mud on to the tarmac the surface was super slippery. Having just come back from ice driving in Norway I felt at home. We made it through the stage and repeated it on Stage 2. We were over a minute quicker on the second run, which merely shows how slow we were going on the First Stage. But not to worry as we were still in it. At least three cars went out on the first stage caught out by the tricky conditions.

As the day progressed we got a better feel for the car but still erred on the side of caution.  By the end of the day, Jenny had her confidence back and was reminding me they were timing us with a stopwatch and not a calendar…

On each stage, we went ‘green’ on the results. This meant we had moved up the leader board (or whatever the board is called at the opposite end of the leaders) – a reflection of growing confidence in the car and retirements from others.

Total darkness had fallen by the last stage. With no auxiliary lights, we relied upon the standard main beam. It felt like a couple of candles as we groped through the rain and the dark trying to pick out the chicanes or what was left of them. We had to feel sorry for the competitor who demolished a chicane (solid tyre walls) and his car on the very last chicane of the last stage – only 200 metres from the finish after 60 miles of competitive driving.

We finished 62nd out of 83 starters, but most importantly we finished, so much merriment followed.

Considering it was straight out of the box the car was magnificent. No problems at all and easy to drive. It just needs some more power, better suspension, more power, better brakes, more power, less weight, better driver…

The next outing is at Bovington in a couple of weeks and fingers crossed we see more of the venue than we did last time there.

Posted by Dorset Sports Cars

on March 5, 2020