Single-Make Series Ends Two-Month Layoff
LEXINGTON, Ohio – It’s been a long wait for the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires to return to the track, but it will be well worth it. The twists and turns of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course create the perfect setting for more nose-to-tail, door-to-door racing that the series has become known for.
Mazda MX-5 Cup has been coming to Mid-Ohio since 2006, the series’ first year. This season, Mid-Ohio begins the return to classic road courses, the first four races having taken place at a “roval” (Daytona International Speedway) and a temporary street circuit (Grand Prix of St. Petersburg) thus far.
Eagle-eyed fans may notice a slightly new look to the MX-5 Cup cars this weekend. The series announced Black Mirage this week as the official cybersecurity partner of MX-5 Cup. All cars will carry the Black Mirage logo.
Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) comes into Mid-Ohio with the points lead courtesy of two wins in the first four races. At a track like Mid-Ohio, qualifying well will be crucial to earning strong race finishes and maintaining his lead.
“The key to a quick MX-5 Cup car at Mid-Ohio is having a good handling race car,” Thomas said. “Mid-Ohio is not a track where you can rely on the draft to keep you in the fight. It is difficult to pass because of the lack of long straightaways.”
Thomas likely wants to make amends for his dismal weekend here one year ago. A crash in practice forced Thomas to rent a different car and, though he went on to win the second race, it was taken away when the car was found to be in violation of minimum ride-height requirements.
The driver who inherited that win was Chris Nunes (No. 32 Formidable Racing), who crossed the finish line in second place. Unfortunately, Nunes never got the proper victory lane celebration since he was already at the airport when word came that he’d been declared the winner. Nunes is chasing his second career victory in the series.
The current leader for Rookie of the Year honors, Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports), doesn’t have much experience at Mid-Ohio – and the experience he does have was in the snow! Zilisch is the current Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout winner, so clearly he has what it takes to learn everything he needs to know about the circuit in a short period of time. He is coming into Rounds 5 and 6 with a lot of confidence, having recently scored his first MX-5 Cup podium.
“I definitely feel more confident coming off of a podium at St. Pete,” Zilisch said. “I think that as a team we have the ball rolling in the right direction, and I’m hoping to be able to get up atop the podium with one of my teammates again. It was really cool sharing that moment with Selin (Rollan), which makes me want to do it again even more!”
Zilisch’s teammate, Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports), who won the most recent race at St. Pete, is currently second in the point standings, just 20 points behind Thomas. Rollan was a winner at Mid-Ohio last year and needs to keep his string of podium finishes going if he wants to get his turn as MX-5 Cup champion and claim the $250,000 prize on offer from Mazda.
Reigning champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) is off to a bit of a slow start this season with only two runner-up finishes to his credit so far. He too is a former winner at Mid-Ohio and enters the weekend 250 points out of the championship lead.
Woody Heimann (No. 82 JTR Motorsports Engineering) is the only Ohio native racing in MX-5 Cup this weekend, and he has a lot to prove at his home track. Heimann, who made his series debut at Mid-Ohio last year, flipped his car in the last race at St. Pete. Though he was able to walk away, the car was not as lucky, and he finds himself in a new car this week.
For those who will be at the track in person, championship leader Thomas, who hails from the neighboring state of Indiana, has some viewing recommendations.
“My two favorite places to watch are in the Keyhole, because you get to see the cars come through the very fast Turn 1 and up the hill into the Keyhole, and then in madness because Turn 4 is a big passing opportunity.”
Track action for Mazda MX-5 Cup begins Friday with practice. Race 1 on Saturday is set for 12:10 p.m. ET. Sunday’s race will go green at 11:15 a.m. Both races will be streamed live on IMSA.com/TVLive.