The Mazda MX-5 is a staple of the iRacing service. Featuring in the Rookie series and several licence ranks, everyone has driven this little racer, but can you master it? Here’s your guide to the Mazda MX-5 Cup car on iRacing.
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Including the Rookie Series, Production Car Challenge and Advanced Mazda, the iRacing Mazda MX-5 features at many licence levels. As a result, finding an iRacer that hasn’t driven this open-top sports car is certainly a challenge.
Whilst every simracer and their grandma has taken to the wheel of the car, very few can say they’ve mastered it. Easy to drive, but tricky to drive fast, here is your guide to the Mazda MX-5 Cup car in iRacing.
Cornering in the iRacing Mazda MX-5
Taking corners in the Mazda MX-5 is an easy job when having fun. Bu,t getting the most out of every entry, apex and exit is a challenge. It requires smooth driving and an ability to feel the edge of grip. In fact, the best Mazda drivers on the iRacing service will spend most of their time sliding round bends.
To get this right, it’s all about finding the perfect blend of throttle and brake. In fact, once you’re down to the correct speed, you should hold a small amount of brake pressure while slowly adding throttle and turning in. This combination of inputs will help rotate the car, giving the rear some added kick. Make sure not to over-do it though, as too much slip angle will prevent you from powering out of the corner.
As soon as you feel like you’re on the right line towards the exit, apply full throttle. The earlier you can manage this the better, as the majority of lap time in the MX-5 comes from corner exit.
This atypical use of both pedals is key in to rotating this Mazda MX-5 in iRacing, which usually produces a lot of understeer. Through fast sweepers, it is also a good idea to aggressively touch the brake while turning in. this will help put weight on the front axle mitigating the understeer.
It’s All in the gears
With such a low-power car, it’s important to use the Mazda MX-5’s power range to the fullest. As such, shift times are crucial to getting the most out of the little racer on the straights.
In previous years, the car featured an H-pattern manual gearbox. That was changed for a six-speed sequential box for Season 3 of 2021. Heel-toe, missed shifts and blipping are all a thing of the past for this agile model so you have no excuses for poor gear changes.
To get the perfect shift, one must not use the entire rev range. The 2-litre inline-four engine produces peak power closer to 7,000 revs. So there’s no point in revving the motor out to the redline. It may feel strange shifting up when the LED shift lights aren’t all on, but shifting at the 7k-7.1k rpm mark is optimal.
Another peculiarity with the MX-5 is its long first gear. Whilst most racing cars seemingly don’t need a first gear given how little they are used, the Mazda will reward you for shifting down in the slowest turns. You’ll get both good rotation on power application and decent power from the get-go.
Finally, with the longer first gear, it can be a struggle getting off the line. Bogging is very much normal on race starts with this car, so the best way to leave the line is to simply dump the clutch. There’s no point in being fancy with your bite points and throttle percentage. Hit full throttle, dump the clutch and bog down just like everyone around you.
A Guide to Racecraft
A low-power, low-grip grass roots racer, the Mazda MX-5 produces fantastic battles in iRacing. Whilst this is certainly due to the car’s ease of use for most drivers, it is also because of it’s aero setup. The MX-5 features meagre downforce levels meaning dirty air isn’t part of the series’ dictionary.
Despite producing next-to-no aerodynamic push, the MX-5 leaves a decent-size hole in its wake. The resulting draft is what brings the pack together and creates exciting pack racing. That being said, the draft is far less effective than that of the Skip Barber so losing it won’t cost as much time per lap.
On the flip side, the Mazda’s racing style is similar to the Skip Barber when it comes to race craft decisions. The car has very little power, so it’s important for overtakes to slow you down as little time as possible. Sure, you got past your rival by sending it into a fast section. But having lost five seconds in doing so and fallen out of the draft, is it really a winning move?
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