Third Annual MAZDASPEED Motorsports Pre-Season Media Lunch

Mazda Atlantic Championship - Frankie Muniz

Today, I attended Mazda‘s media preview for their 2009 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development season. The day kicked off with some serious chow-down via a roving In-And-Out Burger wagon tugged by a monster Mercedes-Benz rig. Several burgers later we checked out a great presentation by Robert Davis, SVP of Product Development and Quality. Many interesting things come to light during this discussion. First of all, from a production vehicle standpoint, there will be a new MAZDASPEED3 at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and the CX-7 and CX-9 will get a refresh for the NY Auto Show. Sales were down 11% in 2008 but Mazda still managed to increase market share.

The main point of the event was to showcase MAZDASPEED Motorsport endevours and enveil two new race cars for their Atlantic Championship series. Amazingly, Mazda has more cars out there racing on any given weekend than any other manufacturer. The company employs a ladder system for their developmental racing program. On the open wheel side, the progression starts with Karting and moves up from there to Skip Barber, Star Mazda and then finally the Atlantic Championship. On the closed-wheel side, the progression begins with Club Racing and elevates to MX-5 Cup, KONI Challenge, World Challenge, Grand Am and finally ALMS. Mazda uses it’s racing programs to feed performance information back into their development life-cycle, which is why, unlike many OEM who run their programs out of the Marketing department, Mazda’s is handled by it’s R&D folks.

As I mentioned before, two cars were unveiled at the event today for the Atlantic Championship Series. Both cars bare the new Team Stargate Worlds yellow and black marking and logos. Notably, one will be driven by Frankie Muniz of Malcolm in the Middle fame. Since 2005, Muniz has put acting on the slow-burner to focus on racing and has been battling his way up every since. He had a rocky start but has gained notable respect and is moving through the ranks as a rising star.

Atlantic Championship cars all use the Cosworth Built Mazda 2.3L MZR I-4 engine with a 5 speed Sequential Manual Transmission. Power output is rated at 300 hp and with a 1,415 pound weight, the car is wicked fast. The chassis is made out of carbon fiber monoque which gives it an ultralight weight. Please see the gallery below for the day’s highlights:

Source: Mazda North America