12 OCTOBER 2020 scca.comINSIGHT
looked like a slightly fatter version ofthe Lotus Elan, perhaps my all-timefavorite pure sports car. The Miata wasblue, sitting on the street in Montereyduring the IMSA race week. I thoughtit was glorious that such a thing wasabout to exist, though I certainly didnot imagine how good it would be, andhow long its popularity would last.
I was racing a Honda Civic Si of myown about that time, chosen partlybecause of my pro racing with T.C. Klinein the same car. The Miata had aboutthe same power ratings and weight,and though small, not a great aerodrag coefficient, so at first most of usdid not recognize its winning potential.
At the Road Atlanta Runoffs of 1991,I finished second to the Mazda Protegéof old friend Eric Van Cleef, helped bya maddening Miata driver jumping thestart three times from the fourth row,causing three wave-offs (just start therace and black-flag him, for goodnesssake), and shortening that ShowroomStock C race that same amount. Tragicfor me, because I knew Eric’s tires wereborderline – and sure enough, his left-front was shredding as he passed underthe checker with me right on his tail.
Miata. There’s a long-running joke that it’s the universal answerto any question about amateurmotorsports – and it’s pretty muchtrue. The sports car that defines fun-to-drive has bookended my career thusfar. I like to brag that I scored the firstnational championship in a Miata, withSCCA at the National ChampionshipRunoffs at Road Atlanta, ShowroomStock C, in 1992. And that very carhas survived and was recently in aSacramento museum. Then I oncemore piloted a Miata in 2014 duringmy last factory pro road racingcontract (so far...) racing for FreedomAutosport in the IMSA ContinentalTire Series, co-driving with theterrifically talented and remarkableAndrew Carbonell. In an oft-repeatedphrase these days, I also raced withhis father (Alfredo, in this case).
I remember the very first timeI saw a Miata in person – do you? It
Woulda-shouldas aside, the Miataswere not yet dominant. I got one thenext year because of the amazinglygenerous Mazda contingency, $500to win. With the BFGoodrich Tireprogram and Miata Club, wins wereprofitable, even! Imagine that. Withmy own car, I won a lot and paid for myracing. Rare! I fantasized about beinga vagabond racer, racing all over inmy car, financed by contingencies.
The secret to the Miata was two-fold:
1. Great brakes: We were requiredto run stock pads back then, andthe Honda’s were quite inadequate.
2. Handling Balance: The perfectlyneutral two-seater could maintainvery high cornering speed as a result,not creating the tire friction thatslowed its competitors in the strictclass. Turning did not slow it down.
The Hondas of the time (EFs) hadvery light rotating mass and goodmid-range torque in their SOHC 1.6Lmotor, making the Miata feel lazyto build revs in comparison. But theMiata’s DOHC 1.6L pulled well at highrevs, all the way to seven grand.
The Miata handling was a revelation,so responsive that Showroom
MIATA: THE UNIVERSAL AMATEUR MOTORSPORTS
“ The Miata handling was a revelation,
so responsive that Showroom Stockers
like me had to recalibrate”
2-TIME RUNOFFS NATIONAL CHAMPION3-TIME SOLO NATIONAL CHAMPION4-TIME PROSOLO CHAMPION
4-TIME WORLD CHALLENGE CHAMPION2-TIME ROLEX 24 GT WINNERSCCA MEMBER SINCE 1980RANDY POBST