We recently got our hands on the brand new Mazda MX-5 Cup Car, a race car that will be competing across the world as part of the MX-5 Spec Series races.
Grassroots racers, weekend autocrossers and occasional track enthusiasts should already be familiar with the Mazda MX-5, which is known for setting the benchmark for sports cars, even though it doesn’t boast a lot of tech or high horsepower figures. Under the hood of a Mazda MX-5 Cup car is the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that you’d find in a regular MX-5, and it barely makes more than 155 hp. The transmission isn’t a fancy dual-clutch unit, nor does it have automatic rev matching; it’s just a basic six-speed manual. And power is sent to the rear wheels, even though some of the fastest cars seem to sport all-wheel drive these days.
Look, we know it might sound unbelievable, but the MX-5 Cup Car is a legitimate threat on the track. With its race-spec tires and brakes, in addition to the weight savings that come from ripping out most of the interior, it just tore up our test track, finishing with one of the most impressive times we’ve ever seen. It achieved a lap time of 1:21.2 thanks to the impressive skills of our own racer David Pratte, who sets all the times on our track. That number doesn’t mean much in isolation, but here’s a list of 10 awesome cars that the MX-5 Cup Car managed to be faster than.
The only other race-ready car we’ve tested on our race track is an old Pirelli World Challenge B-Spec Mazda2. Like the MX-5 Cup Car we tested, it featured a stripped out interior and race spec tires and brakes. However, those changes only allowed it to put down a lap time of just 1:29.25, which is a glacial pace compared to the MX-5.
Drivers will cite the MX-5’s lack of power and grip as its biggest limitations, so let’s look at how another compact car that has both of those things performed on the track. The newest iteration of the Subaru WRX has a turbocharged flat-four engine that makes 268 hp, helping this four-door set a 1:26.332 time. Not bad, but still far from the MX-5 Cup Car’s time.
Mustang EcoBoost Track Package
Everyone knows the Ford Mustang is a powerful pony, and one equipped with the track package is no slouch. Making over 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, the new four-cylinder Mustang is actually quite fast, but not fast enough to beat a Mazda with about half the horses under the hood. Our recorded lap time of the force-fed Mustang is just 1:24.279.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
OK, so we already discussed how the WRX compared to the MX-5 Cup Car, but what about the motorsports-inspired Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR? Sorry to break it to all you Mitsubishi fans, but no, the 290-hp, all-wheel drive sedan managed a time of 1:22.990, despite the impressive parts on board. Remember, an Evo MR features Eibach springs, Bilstein shocks, 18-inch forged aluminum BBS wheels, lighter Brembo brakes and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, but that’s not enough to keep up with the MX-5 race car.
What about the Germans? They tend to take performance seriously and are frequently benchmarking their cars on the world-famous Nurburgring. If a car can survive that test, then it must be good enough to tear up our test track, right? The Audi TT-RS we tested a few years ago has a 360-hp five-cylinder turbocharged engine that allows this little all-wheel drive coupe to hit 60 mph in about 4 seconds. With a price tag of well over $55,000 when new, we described our experience in this little monster as nearly perfect, but it only put down a lap time of 1:22.389. We’re getting close to that MX-5 Cup Car’s time, but it’s not quite there.
Jaguar’s ultimate performance sedan, the XFR-S, makes 550 hp from a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine. However, we found it quite a task to make this tail-happy Jaguar put down an impressive track time. While its time of 1:22.160 isn’t bad, it’s about a second shy of besting the MX-5 Cup Car, so let’s see what else is out there.
Jaguar F-Type S
The rear-wheel-drive coupe from Jaguar we tested back in 2014 was able to put down a 1:22.056 time, which — let’s be blunt — isn’t fast at all. Actually, it was considered quite fast because before we tested the MX-5 Cup Car, this F-Type was the 10th fastest car on our list, but it’s just been bumped down because it just couldn’t cut it.
2015 Mustang GT Track Pack
OK, fans of American muscle, here’s something that might get your fired up: The newest Mustang GT equipped with the track package couldn’t lap the track faster than a meek MX-5 Cup Car with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Putting down a 1:22.03 time is impressive, considering the weight and price of the Mustang, but it’s not good enough to keep up with this race-ready Mazda.
Mustang Boss 302
We’ve had the chance to put the race ready and legendary Mustang Boss 302 on our track as well, where it surprised everyone and put down an awesome 1:21.450 lap time. Mere milliseconds separate the MX-5 Cup Car from this Mustang!
ALSO SEE: Why Has Mazda Made a Million Miatas?
Porsche Cayman S
Finally, the fastest car that our MX-5 Cup Car beat was the well balanced, dual-clutch equipped Porsche Cayman S. A car that costs over $60,000 compared to the MX-5 Cup Car’s $55,000, this Cayman S was one of the most impressive cars we ever tested on our handling-focused track. It managed a time of 1:21.286, which is barely slower than the MX-5 Cup Car’s 1:21.2 time.
While kudos should be given to the MX-5 Cup Car, it suffers from one significant drawback compared to most of the other cars on this list: it can’t be driven legally on the streets. For that, you’d have to make do with the regular MX-5 Miata. Mazda sold one million MX-5s over the years, and the Japanese automaker is celebrating by taking its Millionth Miata on an epic road trip. Head to our Millionth Miata Celebration Tour Hub to see where the car is headed next.
Are you the ultimate Miata enthusiast? If so, you could win a trip to the Miatas at MazdaRaceway event October 1-2. How do you win? Easy!
To help celebrate the Mazda’s production of the one millionth Miata (which is currently making its way on a cross-country road trip), we’re hosting a photo contest and all you have to do to enter is post a photo of your Miata on Instagram and use the hashtag #MX5Movement.
Discuss this story on our Mazda MX-5 Miata Forum