Proving the MX-5’s mettle in a 12-hour endurance race
There is nothing in the Mazda MX-5’s background that suggests it was built for endurance racing.
Throughout its 29-year history, the MX-5, a.k.a. the Miata, has been appreciated as a lightweight, fuel-efficient, rear-wheel-drive, two-seater roadster that is infinitely fun to drive and has an affordable price point, thereby selling more than a million units worldwide since its launch in 1989.
Last month, however, on Philippine Independence Day, a team of auto techies and race drivers proved that aside from being a lifestyle sports car, the MX-5 has the mettle to place third over-all in the 12-hour Petron Kalayaan Cup under horrendous monsoon rains at the Clark International Speedway.
The car the team drove was a 2015 MX-5 owned by car enthusiast Angie Mead King, whose Car Porn–Parts Pro Racing shop prepped it for the races but kept it basically stock. (Since Angie King was out of the country at the time, she did not drive for the team.)
The 2015 fourth generation MX-5 is powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed manual transmission that produces 167 hp and 140 lb-ft max torque. Its curb weight starts at 2,447 lbs.
Although the team was worried that the MX-5 was underpowered compared to the fully modified cars in competition, the only modifications they made were a racing suspension, roll bar, wheels, tires, brake pads and exhaust.
To support the team, Bermaz Auto Philippines, the exclusive distributor of Mazda vehicles in the country, brought to Clark some OEM parts: a spare clutch disc, pressure plate, clutch master and secondary, spare brake pads, ignition coil and spare transmission.
But as it turned out, the MX-5 did not need any of these replacement parts.
Starting with the first four hours of the endurance race at 5:30 a.m. on June 12, father-and-son champion racers Carlos and Iñigo Anton, Autostrada Motore executive director Marc Soong, Formula 4 driver Gabe Tayao, his brother Kevin Tayao and Errol Panganiban, took turns driving the “Mighty Miata.”
The team placed first in the FM-1 Class (slightly modified 150 hp and up cars with OEM doors, windows and A/C) in the first leg of the Kalayaan Race.
Continuing for the next eight hours of the race, the MX-5 proved to be tough and reliable enough to complete a total of 228 laps around the 4.2-kilometer Clark International Speedway in hard, pelting rain.
War of attrition
“The heavy rains brought out the safety car almost a dozen times during the event because of various accidents and spins,” Carlos Anton said after his stint. “It was a war of attrition on who could stay out the longest without making errors in the rain.”
During all this time, the MX-5 just kept on going, without faltering or having to pit in for fuel.
The first problem arose during Marc Soong’s stint when the safety belts loosened and could no longer be adjusted.
Still, Soong braved the conditions, putting aside his own safety to set consistently quick laps, and keep the team within sight of a podium finish at the nine-hour mark.
But the team decided to no longer risk Soong’s safety and ordered him to pit in for repairs on the seatbelt brackets.
Veteran race driver Carlos Anton then took over the wheel and attempted to make it to the end of the race on one tank, but had to stop for fuel with 20 minutes remaining.
The MX-5 was only two laps behind the winning car, a modified BMW M3.
Although the team settled for third in the overall standings, team manager Billy Billano said after the race: “I think we shocked the field, finishing that high up in the standings using a basically stock Mazda MX-5 against full-blown race cars.”
Bermaz Auto PH managing director Steven Tan said: “We congratulate the Car Porn-Parts Pro racing team for its top three finish in the country’s first-ever 12-hour endurance race.
“It is no mean feat to finish the Kalayaan Cup race under the most atrocious of conditions, much less to land in the top three in a close to showroom stock car sporting its original engine and transmission.
“This achievement is a testament to the passion and skill of the drivers, the dedication of the crew and the astounding reliability and fuel economy of the Mazda MX-5 which passed a true test of its sports car pedigree.”
The Petron Kalayaan Cup is sanctioned by the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP).