We’ve driven a Mazda MX-5 than can crack zero to 100km/h in 3 seconds! And, they’’ll sell you one…
It has double the power and more than double the fun of a regular Mazda MX-5. This is the Mazda MX-5 GT4, a specially-built trim of the iconic roadster designed to tackle the big guns of European GT4 Series.
The racing version of the world famous rear-wheel-drive sportscar is powered by a turbocharged version of its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and is tuned specifically for continental GT and GT4 championships, which means it’s been developed to race around tracks including the Nurburgring, Germany, and the legendary Spa circuit in Belgium.
Power? 239kW – more than double that of a regular MX-5’s 118kW.
The engine has been through the hoops at Mountune in the UK, who’ve worked on esteemed projects including Ford World Rally Cars, Formula 2 and British Touring Cars, so they know their stuff. The turbocharged engine is teamed with a six-speed paddle-shifted sequential gearbox, a racing clutch and adjustable traction control, with stronger AP Racing brakes pulling the Mazda MX-5 GT4 up.
Built in partnership with Jota Sport, based in Kent, England, the MX-5 GT4 has lightweight carbonfibre doors, front splitter and rear diffuser, as well as a carbonfibre rear wing. The glass windows have been replaced with weight-saving Polycarbonate, while inside there’s a carbonfibre dash.
The overall weight of the GT4 is a mere 1000kg – some 175kg less than a road-going Mazda MX-5 automatic. So there’s more than double the power and considerably less weight, resulting in that sensational 0-100km/h time.
Climb around the GT4’s FIA roll-cage and, for a guest driver, there’s a fixed driver’s seat. It’s perfect for regular steerers, Owen Mildenhall and Mark Ticehurst, but of course buyers will be able to set their own perfect position.
The stripped-out interior sees a simple dash and a steering wheel with a plethora of buttons: this is a proper ground-up racecar build.
There’s no key, but an array of buttons for all sorts, including engine mapping to adjust things like the turbo’s boost levels. There are three pedals, but paddle shifters on the small-diameter steering wheel for the six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox: the clutch is needed to get the MX-5 GT4 off from a standstill, but then it’s paddles and pedals only. And boy is it a cracker!
If you love regular MX-5s for their balance and poise, the GT4 is like a rocketship with poise and grace. The engine sounds brilliant, with a meaty note and burbly off-throttle character, but mash the loud pedal and it shoves you back in the race seat. You’ll find yourself needing the next gear sooner than you thought, but when you grab the paddle shift, it instantly fires off a gear with a bang and a shove in the back that feels like a gun being fired.
On Donington Park’s fast, flowing circuit, there’s so much grip from the 17-inch slick tyres, and the smaller wheel means it’s actually easier to be smooth and progressive into the track’s intriguing late- and blind-apex corners, and it’s remarkably easy to drive.
It’s super stiff, with Ohlins adjustable shocks reducing body roll to virtually nil, with only a little dive or squat.
The accelerator and brake pedals are close together, so you can trail-brake into corner with your left foot before getting it on the throttle early to hear that chunky engine note push the tiny MX-5 onwards.
You find yourself exploiting that grip: turning in harder, with more speed as you brake later and later. There’s adjustable traction control, but the MX-5 GT4 will still power oversteer if you step on the loud pedal too early out of a corner.
The AP Racing brakes are good for a few laps, but it’s one area where Mildenhall says the car can improve over a full race distance.
“Bigger brakes – but for that we need bigger wheels. That’s the next step. We’re experimenting with different pad compounds, but the wheels would give it more grip. Because we have narrower tyres than the Ginettas and Lotuses, we need the mechanical grip. If we stiffen it up more, which we’d like to do, we’ll lose mechanical grip, as the car will skip over bumps. So larger wheels would give us the traction and allow the larger brakes.”
Yet it’s not doing too badly as it is. In its first race at the Nurburgring, the MX-5 GT4 finished fourth and fifth in its class. Since then, Owen and Mark have scored two podiums and have broken the class domination of Ginetta and Lotus, no less. Impressive stuff.
If you fancy this yourself, Mazda and Jota will build you an MX-5 GT4 for £125,000 ($194,000) and while it’s been tearing up tracks in the British series, it’s eligible for GT4 series all over the world.
Of course, it’s not road registerable, even in the UK, and Mazda Australia has no plans to ship any here, but the Aussie arm has a strong history of racing involvement so never say never.