The time had come to see what the Mazda 2 could do at the track. The race weekend I signed up for was the Oregon Region SCCA April Showers Event which was a two day race. Each day there was a 20 minute qualifying session in the morning and a 25 minute race in the afternoon.
With the car being brand new to the race track, there were a few extras which were required so I showed up early. I had to get the Mazda 2 a log book and the car received a full tech inspection which included checking out the cage and safety equipment which takes some extra time. The car passed with flying colors and the cage received lots of compliments on the design and quality of the installation.
Saturday morning was looking like it would be a raining all day but the clouds cleared up and the sun came out in time for the new race slicks to be installed. This was the first time I had driven the 2 on a race compound tire which was an interesting experience. I let the tires warm up for the first lap of qualifying before I really started pushing the tires. The level of grip with the BF Goodrich R1S tires is outstanding on the 2. I was able to increase my speed through the corners as the qualifying session when on. I was able to drop the lap times from a 1:46 to a 1:40 which is a good start.
Out of the 23 cars which were in the run group I qualified 15th overall. Considering the cars in the run group this wasn’t too bad, 8 Porsches, a 350Z, a couple of STL and STU miatas, and 1976 HP Rabbit driven by Monte Shelton. Behind me were an ITJ Mazda Rx7 and a Ford Maverick and a few Porsches which finished less laps during the qualifying session. The Rx7 was the closest car in group to the Mazda 2, it was faster on the straights but the 2 was better in the corners. The maverick was really fast in the straights but horrible in the corners making it difficult to get around because it was all over the place.
We lined up Saturday afternoon and the race went as expected. There were two slower cars behind me as the faster cars slowly pulled away…ok, the Porsche GT3 disappeared really quick. He completed 18 laps to my 15 lap, due to a 20 second faster lap time. During the race I discovered several of the Porsches were slower than the Mazda 2 in corners. There were a few times when they would try to pull away in the corners and would get squirrely and have to slow down so I could get closer. Once the straights came up they would disappear down the track again and I would be back to checking my mirrors for the next fast car to come up on me again. The result of the first race in the 2 was 15th overall. The lap times were slower during the race which was a surprise to me. With letting the faster cars go past you give up some speed around the track.
On Sunday our run group was merged with another since there were only 3 cars running in the group. One of the more notables was a tube frame SPO Panoz which was running close to the same lap times as the Porsche GT3. Qualifying was improved over the day earlier, the lap times were consistently in the 1:42s to 1:40s with a best time of 140.527. The qualifying location came up 15th again in the run group with the ITJ Rx7 behind me again.
The race on Sunday was a smaller group as we lost a few cars in the morning qualifying. A bmw lost a connecting rod bearing and a few vehicle break downs which took out a few more cars. The race had 17 cars in it which gave more time for speed and less time getting out-of-the-way of the faster cars. The race itself has some interesting points. During the second lap the Panoz pulled off the track on a side road with the race being over. There was a 944 turbo which also suffered a failure and did not finish either. One of the laps one of the faster Porsches was catching up to me on the front straight. I had been working on braking into the corners later and later. With the approaching speed of the car I knew he wanted to get in front of me before the chicane. He found out that I could brake 100 feet later than he could as I watched him disappear from my vision on my right and I went through the corner first. It was an interesting feeling of satisfaction as I let him past me into corner 4 and I stuck with him through the rest of the corners until the straight came up again and he pulled away. The overall result from the race was 14th place overall.
The whole experience was a great first event and I learned a ton about the Mazda 2 and its characteristics at the limit. My goal for the next time out is to get the 2 into the 1:39s.
Pictures courtesy of Illiad Boyce and video courtesy of Brendan Hughes. Thank you both for the support and the footage!