Friends Keep You Going When Your Car Hits the Skids

When car troubles find you, it’s nice to have a support network of great friends to help you through.
A red gen1 ready for street tuning.

To start this story, we have to go back almost two years. Since a few high power builds and a lot of bolt on cars were all being finished up at the same time, the UtahMazdas crew decided that we would fly Will and Ryan from PDTuning out for the weekend to street tune everyone’s cars.

Meeting the Mazda gremlins

We all got ready and awaited the arrival date. As we got closer to the date, I learned that Zach (the previous owner of my red gen1) was going to be unable to attend as he had a scheduling conflict due to a family vacation. So, being the nice guy that I am, I offered to swap him cars and take his car down to meet up with everyone at Evolutionary Performance and get the tune done for him. Since I had driven the car before (on the 400 whp setup), it seemed like a good fit.

Long story short, at the meetup, the first thing I noticed about the car is that it would randomly die at idle for some reason. After spending the weekend trying to diagnose all the gremlins with this freshly built car, we ran out of time and were unable to tune it.

I had the car for a few more days, and even though it left my girlfriend and me stranded, I still loved the car. It brought a smile to my face that I couldn’t wipe off.

Time to get to the bottom of the trouble

Fast forward a few weeks, and we’re still having trouble. Finally, Zach stopped by my desk at Mazda. He was frustrated since the car was still riddled with issue after issue and wasn’t getting any better. He said he was probably just going to sell it.

I picked the car up a few days later unsure of what I was getting myself into.
On the hunt for trouble.

After very little thought and some hasty decisions, we struck a deal. I picked the car up a few days later unsure of what I was getting myself into. The only thing I knew was that there was something about this car that made me happy in a childlike way.

After a lot of work, and some great help from my amazing group of friends, the issue of dying at idle was taken care of along with a whole new VVT kit. The car was, at long last, now ready to begin the tuning process. As the car started to make more and more power, it started to show its weaknesses and it just felt like it was never going to work. But I kept pushing on and fixing it along the way.

At last, a breakthrough

Finally, it happened — a day I thought would never come! The pump gas tune was finished just in time for the very first Mazdaspeed takeover in Boise. We met up a few days later and headed to Boise. I drove the car all the way there without issue.

We attended a few different events and the car not only didn’t let me down, but it continued to impress me.
A well-deserved award for perseverance.

We attended a few different events and the car not only didn’t let me down, but it continued to impress me. After hours of hanging out with everyone at the dyno day, I loaded up the slicks and went to Firebird Raceway for the track night at the takeover. As I didn’t have much seat time in the car at the track, it was not as fast as I would have hoped. But with Barett by my side and with some helpful coaching — all that engineering stuff that makes no sense to me — the car started getting faster and faster.

Then, on the last run, the unimaginable happened. The connecting rod decided that it’d had enough and wanted to see the world. After a whole bunch of noise and smoke, the motor was done and we were sitting in Boise trying to decide what we were going to do. Thanks to some quick thinking from the locals, and my amazing partner in crime Marisa, we got the car on a tow truck and headed back to Keith’s house.

Keith, being the great man that he is, let me store my ride in his garage for a week while we made the drive home and back with a trailer to come and get it.
Once more unto the breach.

Keith, being the great man that he is, let me store my ride in his garage for a week while we made the drive home and back with a trailer to come and get it.

Back to the drawing board

A week later, we picked her up and took her home. There she sat and waited while I tried to figure out what I was going to do to fix the problem. Once again, my friends — who are really more like family to me — came to the rescue. We all met up one Sunday morning to tear the motor out of the car and find out what was salvageable.

Once we tore down the motor, we realized that very little could be saved, so I contacted FJ Performance to have a new motor built. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, the motor was delivered and, once again, the UtahMazdas crew got together. The only difference? This time we’d graduated from the storage unit to a two-post lift at Evolutionary Performance.

We installed the motor and, after a few hiccups, we had it running for the first time in seven months. Safe to say, I was ecstatic.

After many oil changes and a careful break-in procedure, I noticed that the new motor was still having issues, but I kept pushing forward with assurance that it would get better. Sadly, it did not. The motor ate a head gasket a mere 2,000 miles into boost ‘n chill.

Let’s try this again

At this point, I was devastated. I wasn’t sure if I was going to part the car out or just sell it as a roller with no motor.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to part the car out or just sell it as a roller with no motor.
When you love something, you don’t give up on it.

After thinking it over and talking to everyone that has helped me along the way — oh, and don’t forget Luke McCarvel hitting me up every day demanding that I keep the car — I decided that there was only one thing to do. So, once again, it was time to take my baby back to EP and, this time, the motor would be built by Artem and myself so that there would be no doubt it’d be perfect this time around.

If there is one thing that this whole experience has taught me, it’s that you can always count on your friends to be there when you need a hand. And you can always count on the crew at CorkSport to keep you motivated.


Cody Allington

NATOR: The Pyramid Scheme You Want to Join

A look at the parking situation at a NATOR group meet up.
If you see a bunch of Mazdaspeeds by a garage, you’re probably looking at a NATOR group.

I’ll admit it up front: NATOR is a pyramid scheme. “What?!” you proclaim. “Isn’t NATOR like family? Who would do that to family?” Let me explain why and how you can become the next Platinum Emerald Neon Iridium special level NATOR member! But seriously, here’s what I’m talking about.

The beginnings of NATOR

Back in the early days of NATOR AL (AL for Alabama), all we had was a few people posting on (MSF) in the South East section. I was relatively new to wrenching, having only recently learned how to change my own oil (yes, I know) or install an intake. Some guy named Ryan invited a few of us to his apartment for burgers, wings (spoiler: the wings weren’t fully cooked), beer, and wrenching. The meet was only four people, but the spark was there. Many stories were traded, laughs were had, and plenty of beer was consumed.

Over the next year, we steadily grew and started really wrenching on cars. Our first big “project” was HPFP internal installs. Only Ryan had done them before. Tension was high for this (now) trivial install, but everything went smoothly. Quick pro tip: There’s no reason to pull the intake or battery box.

Now here’s where the pyramid scheme comes in: It’s about knowledge transfer instead of products or sales. Whereas Ryan was the self-proclaimed “Mazda master tech” that knew everything about working on Speeds, Jason and I quickly picked up the new skill and were able to do HPFP internals later without Ryan’s oversight.

NATOR groups are great for learning about all sorts of Mazdaspeed repairs and mods.
A NATOR teaching moment.

The benefits of NATOR communities

I can hear some of you now: “But Shane, HPFP internals are stupid easy.” And you’d be right. That’s exactly why it’s such a great thing to teach new guys that are timid with a wrench. Eventually, things such as intakes, test pipes, and internals were jobs that I didn’t have to participate in. This is when I realized the greatness of the NATOR pyramid scheme: If I teach someone what I know, then later I can sit back in a lawn chair drinking beer and not lift a finger at a meet. Over the years, I’ve seen countless people with no wrenching experience become comfortable working on their car by themselves. In one case, a member used his knowledge about starting an engine with no fuel pressure to reassure a friend working on a GTI that the car not immediately starting was due to pressure needing to build in the rail before it started cleanly.

Now, we haven’t simply stuck to the basic “intake, test pipe, tune” mods in AL. We’ve pretty much done everything performance-related there is to do on these cars. Countless turbo swaps, a handful of transmission jobs, engine swaps, head rebuilds, timing jobs, suspension swaps, interior gutting — all of these have been done in a NATOR AL garage.

A Mazdaspeed gets towed from a NATOR event.
The helping hand of a NATOR community.

One of the best parts of NATOR is that if you put in work helping someone else out, they’re willing to spend many weekends getting your car working again. We had a local member’s transmission die a horrendous death without any warning. He’d been at meets before and was always willing to lend a hand, so we offered to swap out his transmission. Five weeks, and a TON of fail later, he was back on the road as happy as could be.

Another great benefit is that the community is nationwide and international now. Twice a year, we do epic meets. One’s in April on the East Coast and the other is in late-August/early September in the Midwest. Enthusiasts from all over the country (plus some from Mexico, Canada, and even once someone from Germany) gather to celebrate these awesome cars and the community we’ve built around them.

Perhaps my favorite NATOR story was one involving the Epic Midwest NATOR Meet (EMWNM) in 2015. The meet was incredible with lots of great people attending, tons of alcohol was consumed, go-karts were raced, and many smiles were had. The conclusion of the meet was a track day on Monday at Autobahn Country Club. I spent the first two sessions feeling out the car and learning the track. On the third session, I was chasing down a BMW I had just let pass when I tried to accelerate out of the corner and got nothing. Seconds later, my oil light came on and I dove into the grass to (hopefully) save my engine. No luck … It spun a bearing.

After a very brief diagnostic session in the paddock, I asked a NATOR member if I could have my car towed to his house. He said “yes” immediately. I ordered an engine from Mazda Motorsports and was dropped off at the airport to catch a flight to get home for work. Fast forward three days later to Thursday, I arrive back in Chicago to an engine almost entirely out of the car. I literally took two clamps and a hose off the engine and it was free-hanging on the hoist. NATOR basically took my engine out of my car for me and then helped me put my new one in. Less than a week after I blew my engine, I was back on the road headed home thanks to this community.

A NATOR group in action at a local meet.
A NATOR group in action.

What happened to me (free engine removal) isn’t the norm, but I’d do the same for any of those guys should they ever break down in Alabama. And that’s what NATOR is about: helping a fellow Speed owner in need, whether that’s “I need parts” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

How to join NATOR

So how can you get in on this awesome pyramid scheme? Search MSF, MSO (, or Facebook and find your local NATOR and show up to meets. Heads-up: Local might mean a two- to four-hour drive. Bring food, beer, or tools if you have specialty stuff. Wrench on cars with the NATOR group, or if you aren’t skilled in that, be the guy who grabs tools or makes runs to the parts store. Ask questions to expand your knowledge. Take a new guy under your wing and teach him what you know. As you spend more time with your group, you’ll find others offering help or parts when you need it.


Shane Fry

What should Sponsorship look Like?

What should sponsorship look like?

We have hundreds of people contact us every year to be sponsored. Some want free parts, some want discounts, some want to test parts, some want to simply represent a company they love, and others simply want the satisfaction of saying, “I’m sponsored!”. What should sponsorship look like though? We have only a handful of sponsored drivers because we believe that sponsorship should be a relationship, not just money thrown at someone. At the same time we have thousands of customers who want to support us, and hundreds of customers that ask for sponsorship. So the real question is how do we provide a sponsorship program that is best for everyone? A program where we can sponsor more people, the right people, AKA the people YOU want sponsored.

Why do we sponsor people?

We sponsor people for several reasons.

  • We like you: We have so many amazing people in the Mazda community and we want to support the growth of the Mazda modification scene.
  • When you get support, you give support: It’s a proven fact that when someone tells their friend about a great part, product, service, or event that it can be better marketing than Google ads, billboards, TV commercials or any other form of typical advertising. The best advertising that we can have is simply by providing the BEST customer service, BEST parts, and a great experience for all Mazda owners. One way to do this is too sponsor drivers who can tell you exactly what our parts are like!
  • Testing: We are always working on new parts for your car and the best parts are the ones that get tested, revised, tested, revised, and tested again. Though we have plenty of cars at our disposal in our shop or personal garages, often the best testing comes from YOU. Plus when you can say “I beta tested this, and that shit WORKS” it lets others know that we aren’t just making stuff up.

How does it Benefit you?

It depends on what you are looking for. As a sponsored driver you might get discounts on parts, recognition in the community, or you might even get to work personally with some of our engineers to develop and give feedback on our latest parts in development.  As CorkSport rolls out a new Sponsorship program we want to be able to invite everyone into being a part of a team that can benefit you and us, equally. This means that the more you invest in your car and the Mazda community, the more we invest in you.

How does it benefit us?

This one is more difficult to measure. Sponsorship can often appear to be a one-sided endeavor. In many sponsorship relationships you might get paid with free product, or even cash, to say something like “After every race, I drink a refreshing bottle of Sporty Sport Drink“. Now the statistics on how many customers choose to purchase Sporty Sport Drink because of your sponsorship is a tough measurement. In the same way it’s hard to measure how often someone sees your sweet looking Mazdaspeed 3 with a CorkSport decal on the side and decides to find out what CorkSport is and then buy something. Nonetheless it does happen (we hope) but, there is more to sponsorship than just advertising to make more money.

Sponsorship benefits us because it allows us to be a part of the Mazda community. We don’t always get to be at every Mazda event, we don’t get to talk personally with every Mazda customer, and we don’t even get to respond to every Mazda thread, question or email in our great big world. When we sponsor someone we get to make a connection with you, and then you get to be our ambassador for all those people we can’t personally interact with. In other words, we get to be part of the Mazda community, due to our CorkSport Sponsored Ambassador Team.

The Best Part about Sponsorship:

The best part about sponsorship is the fact that it is a community benefit. Sponsored drivers get cheaper parts, or new unreleased parts, or recognition. Mazda drivers that aren’t sponsored get the extra knowledge and help from the sponsored drivers, and get feedback about parts they don’t have. Finally Corkspot gets the benefit of creating a better Mazda community which is why we started the company in the first place! Because we love Mazdas!

Sponsorship is about sharing OUR love of Mazda with YOUR love of Mazda, and spreading that love beyond where we can reach individually.


Mazda in Love CorkSport Sponsorship


Have some ideas for when we roll out our new program? Have you been impacted by one of our sponsored drivers, or someone you think should be sponsored? Have a brilliant plan to benefit the Mazda community? Email your feedback and ideas!