With over 1500 people in attendance and 477 examples of Mazda's little legend on the track, a southern hemisphere record was broken. (The world record is somewhere beyond 2000...)
The family-friendly festival kept the kids entertained with slot car racing, car simulators and face painting, but the star of the show was the world-traveled one-millionth MX-5. A long line of keen fans queued up to write their name on the car and to snap a quick photo of the history-making Japanese sports-car.
Parked nearby was the new Mazda MX-5 RF, which had a crowd of people surrounding it all day, like it was a famous Hollywood celebrity.
Seeing over 600 colourful MX-5s in the show and shine, all vying for a prize, was spectacular. From cars that are completely stock, to modified racers, to even a blue NA towing a matching MX-5 cut-in-half.
After each MX-5 lined up from the NA through to the current ND, the highlight of the day was when these cars took part in a parade lap around Sandown.
Amazingly, not all of the 600 cars on show were taken out for the parade lap (many simply chose not to), which is why we were left with 'only' 477! Still, a record is a record...
I was driving a white 1.5-litre ND, and to be apart of the MX-5 family for a day in this record-breaking moment, was really something special.
There was an opportunity to listen to a panel of Mazda VIP guests on-stage. It included Japanese Professor Takao Kijima - instrumental in getting the MX-5 into production and was the chassis engineer - and ‘Mad’ Mike Whiddett, a New Zealand drifting champion.
Through an interpreter, Professor Kijima reminisced back to when the two-seater roadster was struggling to get approval from Mazda.
“When we did the market research, there were no customers we could find, so everybody thought it wasn’t going to happen," he explained.
“We wanted to make this car, but management just didn’t approve because it was going to cost billions.”
After spending many weekends and days working on the project without pay, Professor Kijima and his team received production approval after two years.
“Everybody who was involved in the project was very enthusiastic and they wanted to own this car. It wasn’t work, it was what they wanted to do”, he said.
As for Mad Mike, his history with Mazda dates back to 2007, when he started drifting an RX-7.
“To be partnered with Mazda is something that I never even dreamed of. I was doing motocross and spinning spanners on old rotaries, because they were cheap and easy to get," he said.
Last year he came third in the Formula Drift World Championship in his big-power Red Bull-sponsored MX-5.
“Our MX-5 runs a four-rotor twin-turbo with over 1200 horsepower (895kW), but it needs that much power to overcome the amount of grip that we’re able to put through,” Mike explains.
He also sat some lucky punters, including myself, into the passenger side of an MX-5 Cup car for a hot lap around the track. Suffice it to say, I found out why he got the nickname, ‘Mad Mike’.
Attending the MX-5 Fan Fest, I could see the passion and bond that each and every owner has with their pride and joy. The fun and zippy sports-car is so well loved by people of all ages, and no doubt, will be for many generations to come.
Hit the Photos tab above for a few more shots from the big day.