As requested by 1 out of the 2 Ryans, I'm posting pics and stories from my time with Formula Mazda.
My first trip to the track out in Cresson was to buy my Miata. The road course is about 20 minutes South of my hometown by two-lane highway, the type you usually find cutting across the rural areas in Texas. More than a farm road, but less than an Interstate, well maintained and very scenic. Motorsport Ranch, a self-proclaimed "performance car country club" definitely looked the part. It was built in 1996 around a winding 3.1 mile road course spread out over a series of hills and valleys and surrounded by a clubhouse, garages and various workshops.
It was at one of these shops that I met the seller of a scruffy looking 1990 Miata, originally purchased with racing intentions but back on the market to fund repairs to their GT3 Porsche Cup Car. That was the day I learned that the contents of these shops and storage units were far more interesting than what you'd find in the parking lots and paddock.
Fast-forward to January 2012. I had friends in town from Germany and Afghanistan, both into motorsports. We decided to tour the track and pay special attention to what wasn't out on display. We started with a shop that had a fairly simple-looking open wheel racer parked in the lobby, and I noticed the decals on the cowl: "FORMULA MAZDA." I had never heard of FM at the time, and I initially thought that the car must have been built around a 4-cylinder like the B6 or BP from the Miata. I was way off.
We were met at the door by the very friendly staff who we promptly bombarded with all manner of technical questions. She fielded all of them in turn as we walked through the entrance and into the garage area, a cavernous multi-bay warehouse made of exposed beams and corrugated steel paneling. Spread out in front of us was a grid of ten of the FM racers varying in color and setup. In the bay to our left was a car that had just come in from a session with the cowl removed - I spied the familiar barrel-shape of the 13B behind the driver compartment.
We asked about the series, the season and the cars themselves for a while, and I knew I had to take a shot in the dark. I asked whether they were hiring for shop help, eager to spend as much time as possible in, under and around the cars. I wasn't expecting more than a blowoff answer since my knowledge of rotary engines started and ended with what I've read and researched and the blown engine and trans I picked up and disassembled to test fit my Miata (yeah, the same one) for a swap. To my surprise, they took my request seriously and told me to send them a short resume detailing my mechanical experience. Turns out since the series is run according to strict specifications, the engines are a sealed unit built/rebuilt by a single shop and shipped to the various teams as needed. No prior rotary experience required!
I submitted my information the following Monday and was asked to come back out to the shop that weekend for a practical examination of my ability. I guess I did okay, because I was issued a uniform (3x black Formula Mazda T-shirts) and back the following weekend to help with preparations for the first race of the season.
That's Part 1. I'll continue with the stories and pictures broken out by the races I attended during the 2012 season.
Here seems like a good time to fill you in on the specs of the cars and describe the series in a little more detail:
SCCA Formula Mazda is a spec series for the former Star Mazda series cars. You may have caught the races on Speed back in the day, or seen footage on YouTube (still up) taken from the network coverage or the drivers' onboard cameras. This is a unique series in that it finds a compromise between car performance and intermediate to advanced driver technical skill with affordability. The fields can range from a few cars to a few dozen depending on the region and track. Sponsorship at this level is basically whatever space you can sell on your car, but some of the more serious competitors attract bigger names and money. If you do well here, there's potential to move into pro feeder series like Indy Lights.
The FM chassis was first built in Japan by Hayashi for a racing school in CA. They made their debut at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1984 and new chassis are still being manufactured out of the fab shop in the back garage right here in TX.
The cars are built around the 13B with a Weber 2bbl carb sitting on a Racing Beat manifold. These are tuned to run between 180-190hp on pump gas, even low octane. There's a computer system that monitors the criticals and feeds the info to the driver through a digital dash. Motec was the unit most of the cars were equipped with while I was there.
They're mated to a VW sourced 5-speed gearbox through an adapter plate and gears can be swapped relatively quickly and easily from the back of the box.
The chassis is tube frame in construction with sheetmetal bulkheads and belly pans. There are radiators mounted on each side of the chassis just aft of the driver compartment. The wheelbase is 95" and the racing weight is around 1350 lbs wet with driver.
The dampers are Konis and the springs are Eibach. The suspension is fully adjustable. The front and rear wings can be dialed in for each track. Wheels are BBS and 13x8 F 13x10 R. The tires are Goodyear Eagle slicks or rains.