Toronto MRTI/MX5 Cup 2017

Mazda Global MX-5 Cup at the Honda Indy Toronto

by Michael Taylor (@trackworthy),

Toronto MRTI/MX5 Cup 2017
The Mazda Global MX-5 Cup drivers took to the streets of Toronto for the first time in their identically prepared Mazda MX-5’s. The Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires (the series’ full title) represents an amazing opportunity for aspiring drivers who are working their way up the racing ladder. The winner of this series earns a very valuable USD $200,000 scholarship to advance their career in sportscar racing.

These little race cars start life as MX-5 road cars, which are built in Mazda’s Hiroshima, Japan factory. They are then shipped to Long Road Racing in Statesville, North Carolina where Mazda transforms them into spec race cars, each one identical. As part of the transformation process, Long Road Racing completely disassembles the cars and adds more than 250 motorsports-specific parts, including a full roll cage. This results in even competition and a cost-effective racing platform.

TrackWorthy - Patrick Gallagher (12)
The series consists of twelve races over six race weekends. Racing on the streets of Toronto represents the start of the second half of the season. 1-2 in the championship are Patrick Gallagher and Nathanial (Sparky) Sparks.

We spoke to the reigning 2016 champion Nathanial, who is based in Sebring, Florida, at the start of the race weekend. “Every year we get to come to Canada for a race, and it’s always super exciting. Normally we’re at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (near Bowmanville, Ontario), but, this year they changed it up a little bit and switched it to Toronto. It’s one of the races we look forward to every year. You guys are always so hospitable and you have a fan base that is hard to find anywhere else.”

TrackWorthy - Nathanial (Sparky) Sparks (1)

Nathaniel Sparks

“The track is much better than expected for a street course,” Sparks continued. “The walls are close and tight. I decided I would widen corner 11. The concrete wall didn’t move very much but a couple of my car’s suspension arms did. But that’s all repaired now and we are ready for qualifying.”

When asked about his road car, Sparks responded, “My father has an MX-5 that he bought just because we bought the race car. We thought, this thing’s [so] good as a race car, we wondered what it was like as a street car. It’s super fun! He drives it to work every day and I get to drive it once in a while.”

Nathanial Sparks, who is 27 years old, has been driving professionally in the series since 2012, but he started in the series as an amateur in 2009. When asked if he hopes to move onwards and upwards from the spec Mazda series, Sparks reflected that this particular series strikes the right balance between competitiveness, fun and affordability for the time being: “I would love to [progress beyond the series], but I’m that guy who is having a good time. I love the series. The series is very competitive. It’s affordable. If I see another venue that would lead to just as much fun maybe I’ll go there as well.”
TrackWorthy - Patrick Gallagher (2)

Patrick Gallagher

We also spoke to championship leader Patrick Gallagher at the start of the race weekend. If all of these cars are exactly the same, how has he been able to win four of the first six races? “We have a really good team and we work really well together,” said Gallagher, who drives for McCumbee McAleer Racing (MMR). “I think they [MMR] prepare the car better than anyone up and down the paddock. When you have cars that are this close, it makes my job a little easier to go out there and drive. Hopefully, we can keep it up this weekend.”
Toronto MRTI/MX5 Cup 2017
Gallagher, from Thornville, Ohio, likes “high commitment, big consequence tracks” like Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where the series raced last year, but he also loves racing on the streets of Toronto. Gallagher is a third generation race car driver. His father sill races in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and his grandfather was also a race car driver. Gallagher’s path to the Global MX-5 Cup started when he was racing quarter-midgets at the age of just six years old. Quarter Midget race cars are about one-quarter the size of full size midget cars that adults race. Gallagher won the Mazda Club Racer Shootout, which led to his drive in this series.

Mazda Motorsports has earned the reputation for the most supportive company in grassroots road racing. Total payouts to Mazda club racers for 2016 successes exceeded USD $1 million. This is in addition to the USD $1.3 million Mazda awarded to champions in the professional ranks in the Mazda Road to Indy and Mazda Road to 24. On any given weekend, more Mazda’s participate in road races than any other brand.

Toronto MRTI/MX5 Cup 2017

Matt Cresci (L), Patrick Gallagher (C), Nathaniel Sparks (R)

On the doubleheader race weekend in Toronto, Patrick Gallagher and Nathanial finished second and fifth, respectively, in the first race, and both ended up on the podium in the second race, finishing first and third, respectively. Patrick and Nathanial remain first and second in the championship standings.

The next two race weekends are September 2-3 at Watkins Glen International and September 23-24 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Global Invitational takes place October 13-15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

PHOTOGRAPHS and VIDEOS © Copyright 2017 TrackWorthy Group Ltd. and IGNITE MEDIA

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