25-10-2017 – Laurie Southern
The Giant-Killing MX5
Events  – Feature

Few things are repeated more often in the automotive community than the phrase; “The MX5 is the most fun you can have on the road”. Whether you agree with this statement or not, there’s no denying a well built example of Mazda’s little Roadster will put a smile on anyone’s face. Michael Wheatley proved this theory to me at the JapShow Finale 2017 at Santa Pod Raceway.

As with anything car related we were up before the sun was. I’m not a morning person, I never have been. I often wonder why I find myself setting an alarm for some stupid time in the morning and dragging myself out of bed. I digress, a short trip to meet Mike and we were on our way to Santa Pod. Running alongside the show stands at JapShow was a RWYB day, which presented the perfect opportunity to see what the car was capable of. The car isn’t a drag build by any means, however there’s no harm in a little fun is there?

The car in question is a 1999 1.8 MX5 MK2. Affectionately named ‘T-Bob’, it’s been in Michael’s ownership since 2015. It was completely standard save for a couple of questionable chrome bits later removed for obvious reasons. It’s now far from it, mind. Exterior modifications include a custom rear bumper, JapStyle front splitter and a red towstrap. HSD Dualtech coilovers help the car to sit pretty over a set of matte black Team Dynamics Pro Race alloys. One of the things I like most about the car is the subtlety of the appearance. It’s no sleeper by any means, but it doesn’t scream for attention either.

What happens when the loud pedal is pressed is what really sets the car apart from others. The car makes 256BHP and 214ft/lb torque thanks to a G19 Engineering TD TD04 13T turbo set up built by the guys at BLiNK Motorsport. G19 also provided the cast manifold and downpipe, which are honestly some of the most well-engineered products I’ve ever seen. A Forge recirculating blow off valve, RX8 injectors and a JP Exhausts custom 3″ exhaust system add to the fun, all managed by a Megasquirt 2 ECU mapped by BLiNK themselves.

Of course with those kinds of figures under your right foot, stopping power is rather important. Slow-down duties are taken care of by MTEC grooved disks and Mintex M1144 pads all round.

The car has only been in it’s current boosted guise for the last 6 months or so, therefore still surprises Mike every now and again. It’s a handful in the wet, I can tell you that for free. The strip had only just dried out when the sessions started so final checks were going to prove rather important.

The car was placed in class F, designated for Mazdas only. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be up against other marques, it just narrows the competition down slightly for easier comparison between similar vehicles. This in fact provided the perfect benchmark, as the previous day actually played host to an MX5 shootout. Fresh targets to beat.

It was Michael’s first time on a drag strip, however to say himself and the car took to it like a duck in water would be an understatement.

For the first shakedown run, he’d be up against a 630BHP Nissan 240Z. An unlikely opponent. I don’t think Michael will mind if I say you don’t need to guess the outcome of that one. But that isn’t the point. Not only did the car perform well but it was quicker than anticipated. Time to go again.

A couple of runs in Michael really began to find his feet (pun intended). His reaction times shortened, as did his gear changes. Beating a 4WD Evo 6 down the quarter mile in an MX5 has to be a rather thrilling feeling, and not one that will be forgotten any time soon I’m sure.

The RWYB day saw some interesting contenders on the strip. It’s not like your average trackdays. Runs are bought individually, meaning nobody has to commit to a full day if they didn’t want to. This works perfectly, encouraging as many people as possible to have a go. The Toyota Aristo wouldn’t be my first choice of drag car, but fair play to the owner for not holding back.

There were plenty of classic battles taking place throughout the day. I guess it’s safe to say the Supra still remains king in the world of Japanese drag cars. This particular car was no exception. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I saw it lose out to anything at all throughout the entire day. I guess someone owed him a ten second car?

I was pleasantly surprised to see a facelift GTR attacking the strip. I’ve always been part of the ‘built not bought’ camp, however this really impressed me. It’s properly savage, sitting back as it hunkered down and almost struggled to get the power to the ground. I’m a huge fan of the sound they make, too.

I guess Nissan know a thing or two about going in a straight line, eh?

Mike and his MX5 got faster with every run, upsetting guys with much bigger, faster, and ultimately more expensive cars over and over. For a car that often gets a fair amount of stick (particularly in the JDM world), that’s not such a bad show. You may have noticed I avoided mentioning boost pressure a little earlier. If you’re at all aware of the internet controversy the car caused when he got it back from BLiNK, you’ll understand why. What I will say however is that the car is currently still running the stock 1.8 clutch, which inevitably has started to slip. There’s more to give once that issue has been ironed out. Of course, I’m assured it will be happening as soon as possible.

Despite this, the fastest time of the day for the pairing was a very respectable 12.84 seconds at 105mph. Figures like that just don’t matter when you’re finishing ahead of cars you could previously have only dreamed of beating, and that’s what RWYB is all about.

So that begs the question; Is an MX5 the most fun you can have on the road? A debate that will no doubt go on for as long as they’re around. I currently drive one too, and I’m hooked. For now.

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