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I’ve said it a hundred times before but I’ve been very busy lately. Busier than usual actually. So busy in fact, that I am surprised I’ve had a race season at all. Let alone changing series mid-season.

What Happened to 944Spec?

Before I dive into my first race ever in a Spec Miata I have some explaining to do. I have run 5 very successful back-to-back seasons in the number 901 944 Spec. I had plans to move on to something faster … and still do … but 2 things started happening early in the 2022 season.

First, my car needs an overhaul and has started suffering random failures. This was not entirely unexpected as it has been one of the most ‘reliable’ cars in the field for 5 seasons straight and at some point, failures are going to happen. Mine has started to happen at every race though and now the car needs a full drivetrain and suspension overhaul.

Second, in 2021 half the field left. I’m not talking about a few guys here and there either, I mean it when I say, ‘half the field left.’ In the Great Lakes region, they went to Thunder Roadster, in the Southeast, they went to Spec46, and in the Mid-South, they quit showing up altogether for various reasons.

The result is that my largest field this season has been a whopping 3 cars. And while I have had a couple of very exciting races with Shawn Taylor in the number 817, it’s become a difficult proposition to put money back into a series that effectively has two to three drivers per event.

It’s simply time to move on.

The 5000 Dollar Spec Miata

As luck would have it, a 1991 1.6l NA Spec Miata popped up for sale after the 944 ate its head gasket at Nashville Super Speedway. My thought process was as follows:

  1. Spend 6000 plus overhauling the 944 to get it into proper form again and race a total of 2 other cars for the remainder of the season.
  2. Spend 5000 on a semi-unknown, non-front running Spec Miata and have fields of 10 to 40 to race.

The choice was relatively simple and made all the easier because of my good friend who happens to be a former mechanic at East Street Racing. Having turned wrenches on several championship-winning cars, he warned me that the NA is not the car of choice as Spec Miata is dominated by the newer and more powerful NB model. But he assured me this would be a great car to get used to the series in while he builds me a nationally competitive NB for next season. Oh yeah, and my next race would be a 16-car field at Barber Motorsports Park. Sign me up!

The car with the white hood (me) setting up a pass for the exit of the Museum turn at Barber Motorsports Park.

Spec Miata at Barber

So how much damage can a 944 Spec driver do in their first Spec Miata race. Quite a bit it turns out. I will let the videos do the talking but I worked my way from almost last to 5th throughout the weekend. As I get more used to the car, I plan on taking this torque less wonder to the podium.

Race 1

Race 2

Race 3

Conclusion

One weekend in Spec Miata was by far the most fun I’ve had racing in a while. The large fields at almost any venue around the country mean I will always have someone to race. And now that I’ve made the switch, I finally have a mechanic to set up and maintain my car, something that was nonexistent in 944 Spec and something I desperately need at this point in my work career. Also, and I blame the poorly programmed shift light from the previous owner, but my mechanic (Koray Aya) let me know that I am shifting about 500 rpm too early. This means there is a little more grunt to wring out of 1.6 at Nashville Super Speedway next weekend. 😉

Chris Simmons By Chris Simmons

About the Author:

Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons is a race car driver, instructor, business owner and all around gearhead. His passion for motorsport started in the drifting community and progressed into wheel to wheel racing of all kinds. When off track Chris can be found training and working on a myriad of projects. After a hiatus from writing, he is back to share his passion, knowledge and experience in regard to motorsports on and off the track.

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