Text and photography by Luke Munnell
If you love RX-7s, old-school RX-2s and 3s, Mazda pickups and all things rotary, you might want to stick to that other annual Mazda gathering that’s much more popular. But if you’re obsessed with perhaps the best roadster ever made, and pretty much everything else Mazda-badged, Mazfest may be just what you’re looking for.
One part each of Extreme Speed Track Events track day, Roadster Cup competition round, and judged Mazda show (where lots of impromptu Mazdas meet in the parking lot), Mazfest is that other Mazda show intended specifically to showcase the efforts of owners/tuners of models like the Mazda3 and Mazda6, Mazda2, CX-5 and CX-9, the occasional RX-7 and RX-8, and plenty of MX-5/Miatas of all generations.
Changing things up from most Extreme Speed events, this year’s MazFest took to the tarmac and pit area of Willow Springs’ Horse Thief Mile track, which is known mostly for its pro-am drifting competition and bashes, and that one-off VTEC Club round last year. Narrow and laden with tight turns, tons of elevation, banks and drop-offs, it’s not the ideal track for powerful cars and wheel-to-wheel racing. But those exact properties (designed to mimic a southwestern mountain pass) make it a fun and fitting course for Mazda’s tight, nimble roadsters and compacts.
As such, the event served as the sixth competition round of Extreme Speed’s “Roadster Cup” competition (a four-class time-attack series for Mazda MX-5/Miatas).
It also served as another Extreme Speed open track day, and subsequently brought out everything from Scion FR-Ss and various Hondas, to a quick Datsun 240Z, Bumble Bee-themed Corvette, vintage Mercedes Sedan, and lots more—even a Lamborghini Super Trofeo car.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, and reinforcing the notion that Horse Thief Mile benefits the small, nimble Mazda Roadster, the fastest lap of the event was clocked by one, Jerry “Awesome” Arnone and his No. 5 fastback NA6 Miata, with a 1:00.857. Yep, even faster than that Lambo.
Jerry’s time also earned him the Roadster Cup Unlimited-class win. Winning the Modified class was Joseph Acuna with a 1:03.896 from his No. 187 NA6 Miata.
Roadster Cup’s Street class is more akin to what most owners of modified Mazda Roadsters might drive on the street or in casual track days, and leading this group in competition was Colin Bowman with a 1:04.501 from his clean NC.
And bringing up the Enthusiast class was Brandon Morris with a 1:05.354 lap from his Superdry-meets-Renown-themed NA6 to take first in that class.
Seeing as how those numbers are nearly identical to those posted by the fastest VTEC Clubbers on their takeover of Horse Thief Mile last year (rhetorical question alert), could we be ready for a Honda-v-Mazda faceoff on the touge of Willow Springs?
While the track stars did their thing, the more posh and polished side of Mazda enthusiasm was represented in the paddock, with several modified rides ranging from mildly so, to all-out show creations.
If track-going Mazda owners are largely obsessed with performance, let’s say those on the show side of things are pretty much the opposite.
Stance and style were the keys here, with pretty much every contender slammed on bags, death-cambered out, and with a unique assortment of spikey hardware or squishy accessories throughout.
Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying the commitment and work that goes into building and showing creations like Team Reckless’s Mazda3 hatch and RX-8.
In closing, this year’s Mazfest was fun. Not “huge,” “groundbreaking”, or “the new standard in show/track days”, but a great way for piston-powered (and some rotary) Mazda enthusiasts and fans to enjoy a day at the track with friends. It’s also strikingly ripe for a takeover, so if you’ve got a track or show-tuned version of one of Japan’s greatest exports, come out next year and show ‘em all what’s up!