Honda and Mazda Team Up to Make Small Cars Fun (Again)

In recent years, the biggest disappointment for Japanese car enthusiasts has been the lack of fun, especially the affordable kind. Gone are the RSXs and MR2s, and aside from the Mazda MX-5, what else is there for the average Joe?

Enter the B-spec class for cars in the sub-Civic class. If you think the use of economy cars for racing is strange, the principals behind it are even stranger. This new racing series was jointly created by new bedfellows Mazda and Honda.

The goal is to allow amateur racers to experience the thrill of racing across multiple sanctioning bodies with a turnkey car costing no more than $25,000.

The stock cars are gutted, fitted with roll cages and a racing seat. The only other modifications are the suspension and new tires and wheels like the 5Zigen FN01R-C on this Mazda 2. And that’s about it. If the formula is a success, Ford Fiestas and Toyota Yarises could join the party.

Actually, the situation closely parallels that of the early years of Japanese imports, when Toyota and Nissan were just entering the US market. They were viewed as economy cars, but when Datsun 510s and TE27 Corollas began appearing at SCCA races, perceptions changed. Read this Car & Driver article about racing these cars amongst BMWs and Miatas at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The full press release is below.

Mazda & Honda Unveil B-Spec Racers
SCCA & NASA Adopt “Freeshare” Rules

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 9, 2010) – With the goal of providing close racing in affordable cars from a variety of manufacturers, Honda and Mazda jointly announce the formation of “B-Spec” Showroom Stock racing. Honda Performance Development, the racing arm of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; and MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, the performance division of Mazda North American Operations, today unveiled their entries for the proposed new low-cost B-Spec, developed from the MAZDA2 and Honda Fit. Both cars will be on display at the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in front of 40,000 racing insiders.

B-Spec refers to all cars meeting a common set of rules that can be adopted by any race circuit or sanctioning organization. Together, Honda and Mazda solicited an independent body to develop a set of vehicle specifications that will be available for all to use – the motorsports equivalent of “freeware.” The final rules should be ready for release within 60 days.
One of the fastest-growing segments of the automobile business, B-segment cars are among the most affordable, and enjoy great support from younger demographics. In addition to the MAZDA2 and the Honda Fit, the category includes the Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

Two prototypes for the class – a MAZDASPEED-run MAZDA2 and a Honda Fit, prepared and entered by Team Honda Research-West – debuted at last weekend’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill season-ending NASA endurance racing contest in Willows, CA.

Designed to be an entry-level category, B-Spec cars will feature showroom stock racing cars utilizing stock engines and chassis, fitted with a competition roll cage, racing seat and other safety equipment; and manufacturer-approved suspension components, tires and wheels. Weight distribution will be used to balance performance among competing manufacturers.

The manufacturers will use an independent third party to homologate competing cars and provide equalized specifications to any interested sanctioning bodies or race tracks. A racer who builds a B-Spec car will be able to race the same car across multiple sanctioning bodies by simply changing the sanctioning-body decals. Only homologated OEM models will be eligible within the rules.

This is intended to be a grassroots class of racing, and at present, there are no plans for a B-Spec professional series.

[Images: Car & Driver]

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10 Responses to Honda and Mazda Team Up to Make Small Cars Fun (Again)

  1. Nigel says:

    Here in Canada the was an all Honda Civic series I think it was called the “Michelin Honda series” that was started in the 80’s. Those cars were great to drive and awesome to see on track.

  2. Hollis says:

    I would totally invest and get into this racing if it makes it to canada.

  3. JT191 says:

    This is interesting. It is good to see interest in racing small cars and developing an affordable format. But there are some serious issues with this.
    “Only homologated OEM models will be eligible within the rules.” Translation: You will be buying one of the cars we, the manufacturers, have selected to be raced in this series. This indicates the entire program is a marketing and advertising effort by the car manufacturers to sell their current product.
    This program will not contribute to the evolution of the manufacturer’s product into a more sporty or more desirable (on a performance basis) product. The premise is to create a racing class based on the products that the manufacturer has, and not what the racer wants. If the project were placed outside the influence of the manufacturers, and the cars not selected for inclusion by the manufacturers, we might expect to see the manufacturers create special edition models in order to give the drivers of their cars an advantage. That is how we got GTRs, multiple carbs, DOHC engines, disc brakes, independent suspensions, fuel injection, all wheel drive, traction control, etc. But if the manufacturers are writing the rules, and selecting the cars to be included, this will be a stagnant spec race class that will not cause an evolution of small, affordable cars, into the exciting and dynamic machines that we come to a website like this to discuss, and that we lament are no longer made by car manufacturers.

    • Ben says:

      You bring up some good points, but Mazda has been backing Spec-Miata racing and if anything it’s made them prouder to have that association (I’m sure it helps with marketing too). Mazda is making every effort to be known as the Zoom Zoom brand, and it shows in their products and concepts. I hope (and think it’s likely) this will lead Honda down a similar track, no pun intended.

  4. Joe says:

    As an owner of a gen 1 Fit, I’m genuinely interested in this series. Also, it should be noted that the Fit’s engine will be detuned in order to remain similar to the 2’s motor.

  5. Camshaft says:

    ^ Probably not, The 2 is considerably lighter than the Fit. Too bad the brakes on the current Fit suck. Good luck, hondabois.

  6. E-AT_me says:

    Spec miata is one of the largest classes in amature racing for sure.. all the good racers at the amature level like spec miata. why? it’s down to the driver.. and, nowadays, the money. this class is starting where spec miata started. it should be great fun to watch. i attend NASA Mid-Atlantic races all season and SM is a blast. i really can’t wait to watch these.. i own a miata and a fit. there are professional series out there to develop product. this wasn’t ever intended to develop product. i like the cross-platform cross-series.

  7. Taco says:

    PLEASE PLEASE let this live!!! I’d buy the hell out of one of those Mazda 2’s!!! Saw one of these at the LA Auto show!

    Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!!!!!!!!!!!!! HEAR MY PAIN, HONDA AND MAZDA!

  8. Sarcasmo says:

    When I think of all the Japanese fun sporty coupes, that came before… I get a lil nostalgic. Thank goodness, Mazda never gave up on or discontinued the Miata. Since it’s debut in 1989-90, that lil car has seen many of it’s rivals and brandmates, come and go. The only fun RWD car that’s been riding the tide along with the MX5 is the Mustang. No wonder Ford and Mazda have a joint venture… they’re the only SMART ones to realize consumers need a RWD sport coupe as a choice to buy.

    Oh yeah, Mitsubishi also has given us a fun car since 89… the Eclipse. Although, it’s FWD, at least it’s still a fun sport coupe alternative to a boring sedan, hybrid or minivan.

  9. mervins says:

    NO way is a eclipse a fun car, that car has ass queer painted all over . Eclipse = jetta = bitch car.

    But as for the spec b racing, that sounds nice, really hope toyota jumps abord this.
    3dr yaris gutted, fully caged…. Can I say more?

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